Date Presented

Spring 5-3-2006

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

First Advisor

Sabita Manian

Second Advisor

Charles Shull

Third Advisor

Marek Payerhin


On September 11, 2001, devastating terrorist attacks on the U.S. changed the entire international scenario. In this post 9/11 period, the U.S. has shaped global politics through its implementation of the “War on Terror”. This policy has been the stepping stone for the Iraq war, as well as dealing with the Al Qaeda terrorist group at large. With this current “War on Terror” come major implications for international theory and practice because; 1) theoretical Realism has informed U.S. foreign policy and the “War on Terror, which equates anti-terror strategy to war (to be explained later); 2) in practice, the anti-terror strategy toward Al Qaeda has led to perceiving every terrorist activity as Al Qaeda-related. This thesis is refuting Realism as a means to dealing with terrorism abroad because it oversimplifies the problem by not taking into account cultural, ethnic, religious, and historical factors that contribute to how terrorist groups operate, what they want to achieve, and how deeply embedded their own ideologies are. The U.S.’s preemptive actions around the globe in the name of state security have been classified by some as “Neoconservative”; however, Neoconservatism borrows almost all of its core beliefs and values from Realism with the exception of democracy promotion abroad. Since it is through Realism that U.S. counter- terrorism policy is being portrayed, it is also on Realism that the failures of this policy can be blamed. In December of 1994, the Abu Sayaaf Group(ASG) in conjunction with Ramzi Yousef and Mohammad Jamal Khalifa planted a bomb in a Filipino airliner resulting in an explosion that killed 1 Japanese man and wounded 10 others.1 The real horror of this event was that it was only the trial run for what we now know as the 9/11 tragedy and this event is a precursor to many events that will be described throughout this thesis. The 9/11 tragedy brought about a U.S. led shift in policy toward terrorism in the international community. Using the Philippines as a test case, it is the aspiration of this research project to prove to the reader that the Philippines, like many other states that contain terrorist groups, is a case that involves many different local factors contributing to the development of organizations devoted to violence as a means to achieving political goals. In order to achieve this aspiration, this thesis provides a detailed analysis of two Islamic terrorist groups in the Southern Philippines: the Abu Sayaaf Group (ASG) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). This thesis will be divided into 4 sections (not including the Introduction and Conclusion) and will begin with an explanation of the theory of Realism with an analysis of the core assumptions of this theory; followed by a historical background on conflict in the Southern Philippines. The subsequent section will analyze current information regarding the Abu Sayaaf Group (ASG) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), along with current Filipino government policies allowing for the continued operation of these groups. Thus, using the ASG and the MILF, Islamic terrorist groups that reside in the Southern Philippines will be the primary focus of this research project because these groups are products of both past and present events. The problem of terrorism is so deeply rooted in the Philippines that it encompasses much more than religious tensions or government corruption, though these two factors do contribute to the problem. A culture of hatred has been bred through historical tensions as well as present actions that have pitted the multi-ethnic Islamic society of the island of Mindanao and the rest of the Southern Philippines against Luzon and the Catholic north of the Philippines. As a result, the primary research question that this project focuses is what causes these terrorist groups to exist, and why have current and historical measures to curtail these groups been unsuccessful? Historical background on actions toward the Southern Philippines will focus primarily on three broad areas. The first will be the Spanish colonial period, dating from 1564-1901, in order to present the case that violence and insurrection existed in the Southern Philippines as far back as the 1500’s. The second period of focus will be the American colonization period, dating from 1901 until 1943, that triggered events intensifying the hatred felt between the northern and southern regions of the Philippines. Finally, the Marcos era, dating from 1976 to 1989, will be discussed because political decisions during this time period greatly disenfranchised the Southern Philippines causing uprisings and a full scale civil war between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and insurrectionists of both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Although these three periods of analysis do not provide every example of historical tension, they provide a broad range of issues that prove valuable in determining possible causes for the formation of militant Islamic groups in the Southern Philippines. Analysis of the ASG and the MILF will be of great importance to this thesis. Since these two groups dominate the insurgency “market” of the Southern Philippines, in depth study of both groups will allow readers to place the formation of these groups in relation to historical and current government policy toward the Southern Philippines. The current government’s policies section will look at how the current structure of the Filipino government has allowed for the continued operation of the ASG and the MILF within the Southern Philippines, with a specific focus on strengthening armed insurgency support. Terrorism and insurgency will be used to describe the actions of the ASG and the MILF because scholars have interchangeably used these two terms to describe these two groups. Throughout this thesis, terrorism will be defined as a “tactic used by individuals and 'i t organizations to kill and destroy” for the purpose of making a political statement. Economic development, poverty, and corruption will all be touched upon in the “current structural causes” section as these contribute to the insurgency problem in the Southern Philippines. Throughout this thesis, the “Southern Philippines” will be used to describe the islands of Mindanao, Mindoro, Panay, Masbate, Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Negros, and Bohol, with these areas being represented on a map in Figure 1 (see appendix). Mindanao, in its use, will encompass not only a territory, but a distinct society separate from the rest of the Philippines due to its ethnic groups and its Islamic heritage. The distinct purpose of this thesis is to why insurgency problems persist in the Southern Philippines and why these problems are part of a localized phenomena that must be taken into account if one is to attempt a macro-solution to this problem. A tentative proposal of a Lexical Chain resolution to the problem is submitted which emphasizes the root causes of the problems rather than a mere attack on the symptoms of armed insurgency in the Southern Philippines. This layout conforms to the three general goals of this thesis. The first of which is to prove that Filipino terrorism is a product of historical, religious, economic, and political tensions and is, therefore, distinct from the Al Qaeda terrorist network that has encompassed international thought. Through proving the uniqueness of Filipino terrorist groups and the situation in which they reside, Realism will be refuted on the grounds that, as a policy for countering terrorism even for the U.S. and its War on Terror, it does not recognize the distinct details of each terrorist group and its organization and thus, looks to apply a common rubric to each situation that will only curtail the symptoms of terrorist violence, thus marking the second goal of this thesis. The third and final goal is to provide a rough structure as to how one might begin to implement measures that intend to fix the terrorist problem in the Southern Philippines.


the right to download or print any portion of this material is granted by the copyright owner only for personal or educational use. The author/creator retains all proprietary rights, including copyright ownership. Any editing, other reproduction or other use of this material by any means requires the express written permission of the copyright owner.

Except as provided above, or for any other use that is allowed by fair use (Title 17, §107 U.S.C.), you may not reproduce, republish, post, transmit or distribute any material from this web site in any physical or digital form without the permission of the copyright owner of the material.