I am sure their answer would have been no different from that of the MILF: They didn’t know. I think that we are in no position to demand of the MILF what we do not expect our own officials to know.
Let’s face it. In our heart of hearts, we know that, despite the existence of the formal institutions of national government, political control over many parts of Muslim Mindanao is at best tenuous and unstable. The Philippine state cannot claim monopoly of force in these parts. We know only too well how every adult in Muslim Mindanao aspires to own a gun as a means of personal protection in frontier-like conditions. No one bothers to have these weapons licensed by the Philippine government.
Our local officials and police in these areas know this, but choose to look the other way. All kinds of armed groups operate in this region. They put up checkpoints demarcating the territories they consider theirs, and collect fees in exchange for passage. So long as they do not kill or abduct people for ransom, or destroy government facilities and private property, our authorities do little to suppress them—in prudent observance of peaceful coexistence. But, out of ignorance or for reasons of our own, we in Manila continue to promote the fiction that Muslim Mindanao is an integral part of the Filipino nation-state. On paper, it is so. But, in practice, Filipino sovereignty over Muslim Mindanao is at best a work in progress.