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Participant in Moro conflict
Active 1971–1979
2008–present (re-formed as 'New Ilaga')
Ideology Folk Catholicism
Leaders Norberto Manero, Jr. (formerly)
Headquarters North Cotabato
Area of operations Mindanao, Philippines
Opponent(s) Moro National Liberation Front (until 1979)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters

The Ilaga (Visayan for rat, translated to mean Ilonggo landgrabbers)[1] is a Christian extremist[2][3] paramilitary group based in southern Philippines. The group is predominantly composed of Visayans (mostly Ilonggo), embracing a form of Folk Catholicism that utilizes amulets and violence. The group complemented the Philippine Constabulary as a militia force during the 1970s in southern Mindanao while fighting against Moro guerrillas during the Moro insurgency in the Philippines.[4]

From 1970 to 1971 Ilaga launched a series of 21 massacres that left 518 people dead, 184 injured, and 243 houses burned down.[5] The group committed one of its bloodiest acts with the Manili massacre on June 19, 1971, when the group killed 70[1]–79[6] Moro civilians inside a mosque.[7]


The Mindanao region is rich in natural resources, including large quantities of mineral reserves. The American colonial government and subsequently the Philippine government pursued a policy of migration by resettling significant numbers of Christian Filipino settlers from the Visayas and Luzon onto tracts of land in Mindanao, beginning in the 1920s. This policy allowed Christian Filipinos to outnumber both the Moro and Lumad populations by the 1970s, which was a contributing factor in aggravating grievances between the Moro and Filipino Christian settlers as disputes over land increased. Another grievance by the Moro people is the extraction of Mindanao's natural resources by the central government whilst many Moros continued to live in poverty.[8]

The Philippine government under Ferdinand Marcos encouraged Ilonggo settlers who had emigrated to Mindanao to form a militia, which was eventually called the Ilaga. There is anecdotal evidence that the Ilaga often committed human rights abuses by targeting the Moro and Lumad peoples, as well as attempting to seize additional territory. The end result of Ilaga extremism is the lingering animosity between Moro and Christian communities. Mistrust and a cycle of violence are still felt today due to the creation of the Ilaga.[8]


From March 1970 to January 1972, the Ilaga committed 22 massacres resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Muslim civilians. The group is guilty of "mutilat[ing] bodies of victims" and "marking bodies with a cross." The group also burned down and looted many houses and properties.[9]

Manili massacre

Violence attributed to the Ilaga reached its climax on June 19, 1971 with the Manili massacre of 70[1]-79[6] Moro Muslims in a mosque in Manili, Carmen, North Cotabato.[10] The Muslim residents of the town had gathered in their mosque to participate in a supposed peace talk with Christian groups when a group of armed men dressed in uniforms similar to those worn by members of the Philippine Constabulary opened fire on them.[10]

1971 Battle of Lanao del Norte

Following the massacre at Manili, many Maranao Muslims fled to take shelter in the Lanao del Norte. Some Muslims formed small militant groups to counter the Ilaga. One such group was called the "Barracudas" and in September 1971, the Barracudas clashed with the Ilagas resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people on both sides of the conflict. The Ilagas also clashed with the Philippine Constabulary. The skirmishes continued until October, and over 60 Muslim houses were torched by the Ilaga.[11][2]

Post-2008 resurgence

Increased tensions in the Philippines since 2008 have since seen the reemergence of the armed vigilante group[12] calling themselves the Bag-ong Ilaga (Visayan: New Ilaga).[13] Since 2008, violence flared up with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Armed Forces of the Philippines after the Supreme Court of the Philippines overruled the proposed treaty for an Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.[14][15]

In November 2008, the Ilaga killed five Muslim civilians in an ambush in Lanao del Norte.[3]

In 2012, two members of the group committed robbery and also murdered two people. They were then arrested.[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Mariveles, Julius D. "Mindanao: A memory of massacres". Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b Ediger, Max (September 2001). The Struggle in Mindanao (PDF). Matina Davao City, Philippines: Documentation for Action Groups in Asia. p. 14.
  3. ^ a b "Christian militia kills five Muslims in Philippines". Dawn. 3 November 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  4. ^ "Anti-Moro group resurfaces in NCotabato". Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  5. ^ "Mindanao: A memory of massacres". The PCIJ Blog. 2015-02-13. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  6. ^ a b Arguillas, Carolyn O. (28 January 2010). "De Lima: "Oooops, sorry, it's Ampatuan Massacre not Maguindanao Massacre". MindaNews. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  7. ^ Marco Garrido (March 6, 2003). "The evolution of Philippine Muslim insurgency". Asia Times Online. Retrieved September 14, 2008.
  8. ^ a b The Bangsamoro Struggle for Self-Determintation: A Case Study
  9. ^ Majul, Cesar Adib (2015). The Contemporary Muslim Movement in the Philippines. BookBaby. p. 50. ISBN 9781483555584. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  10. ^ a b Larousse, William (2001). A Local Church Living for Dialogue: Muslim-Christian Relations in Mindanao-Sulu, Philippines 1965-2000. Gregorian Biblical BookShop. p. 136. ISBN 8876528792.
  11. ^ Robert, B. McAmis, "Muslim Filipinos 1970-1972," Solidarity 8, No. 2, February 1973, p. 7.
  12. ^ "New Ilaga revives fears of Mindanao in '70s". Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  13. ^ “2 New Vigilante Groups Surface in Mindanao” by Cheryll D. Fiel, Bulatlat Alipato Publications, retrieved September 14, 2008
  14. ^ “In Philippines, Abandoned Deal Reignites Rebel War” by Blaine Harden, Washington Post, retrieved September 14, 2008
  15. ^ “Mindanao civilians under threat from MILF units and militias” Amnesty International August 22, 2008, retrieved September 14, 2008
  16. ^ "Inopacan cops nab 2 Ilaga Gang". Retrieved 2018-04-13.

External links

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