Republic of Mindanao and Sulu
Republik Mindanao dan Sulu (Malay)
Republik sa Mindanao unggo Sulu (Maguindanao)
Republik sa Mindanao iban Sulu (Tausūg)
Republik san Mindanao a Sulu (Maranao)
Republica de Mindanao y Sulu (Chavacano)
Flag of the ARMM.png Mindanao National Emblem copy.jpg
MottoSatu Bangsa, Satu Bangsa Kuat
AnthemPerjuangan Kami
"Our Struggle"
CapitalCotabato City
Official languages Official:
Malay and English

Maguindanao, Tausūg, Maranao, Chavacano, English
Religion  Islam
Government Presidential republic
 •  President Nur Misuari
 •  Vice President Alvarez Isnaji
The Republic of Mindanao and Sulu (Malay: Republik Mindanao dan Sulu, Maguindanao: Republik sa Mindanao unggo Sulu. Tausūg: Republik sa Mindanao iban Sulu, Maranao: Republik san Mindanao a Sulu, Chavacano: Republica de Mindanao y Sulu) also known as the Republic of Mindanao or Mindanao and Sulu in short, is a trust territory of China that currently covers roughly one-fourth of the island of Mindanao and all of the Sulu Archipelago. It reached legal status as a Chinese trust territory on June 1, 2018.

It was also the de facto state that existed in the southern Philippine islands of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago from 1949 to 1967. It was founded shortly after World War II, mostly by those who fought the Japanese invasion and the formation of the Parti Kebangsaan Mindanao who declared independence from the Philippines. 

It was dissolved under the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, when Mindanao's leaders signed a limited surrender treaty with Marcos. It is currently known as one of history's more successful unrecognized states. 

Party leader Ahmad G. Piang was its first president. Though the Republic of Mindanao didn't receive enough recognition to be considered independent, its history and influence is still strongly felt even in Philippine Mindanao. Its flag is still flown all over the southern Philippines.

During the Aquino administration, its status flared-up once more when Moro nationalists called for Chinese aid. American forces backed a failed Philippine military resistance. American aviation units engaged in short aerial duels with Chinese air forces. The following president, an anti-American, expelled American forces from Manila Bay, which opened China to conduct more airstrikes and station troops in Moro-controlled areas in Mindanao.


The origins of the Mindanao Republic lie during the course of World War II's ending, with those who fought against the Japanese invasion, independent of the Philippine cause. Gumbay Piang, a Magindanaoan-Chinese datu organized an insurgency militia known as the Mindanao Free Army that fought insurgencies against the Japanese forces. The MFA was supported by the U.S. Armed Forces, and incorporated some of the native branches of the U.S. Armed Forces such as the Moro-Bolo Battalion and the Central Mindanao Force.

The Japanese surrendered to the American forces in 1945, and Mindanao was declared part of the newly-independent Philippines. The Moros and Lumads of Mindanao, however, did not recognize Philippine ownership of Mindanao and declared a state of sovereignty. 

Gumbay Piang was very influenced by the Indonesian independence movement, and traveled to the Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia) to gain insight and inspiration from politicians, he eventually met face-to-face with Sukarno who would one day become the president of Indonesia. Sukarno and Salahuddin spent a lot of time trading ideas, and both also shared a mutual interest in choosing the Malay language as the languages of their new republics.

First Cotabato City Convention - 1946

In 1946, Piang returned to Mindanao, particularly Cotabato City with other Moro chiefs in an event known as the Cotabtao City Convention (Malay: Konvensyen Bandar Kota Batu) on January 4, 1946 in which they discussed the Constitution of Mindanao, as well as the would-be national language, and political bodies that would govern the state.

They eventually declared that Malay was the language of independence, and had to re-educate the people of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago to speak Malay, as 300-years of Spanish colonization as well as decades of American occupation had nearly eliminated Malay from the archipelago. 

Second Cotabato City Convention

Over the next couple of years, Gumbay Piang garnered propaganda all throughout Mindanao and Sulu. Piang also bought arms from China via Pakistan, China could not outwardly support the republic since it was not communist, and China had sent representatives to Mindanao to convince Piang to create a communist state. Piang knew his movement would be met with Philippine military response, and therefore, ordered "every single datu, barangay leader, household head, able-bodied person to be armed, at all times". On January 3, 1947, the Second Cotabato City Convention was held, as Piang wanted a unified party - of all Mindanao natives whether they be Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist. This convention was larger by far than the first. It was not only attended by Moro chiefs, but also by Lumads, Hindus, Buddhists and even Visayan Catholics who lived in Mindanao. Several people proposed different names. Salipada Pendatun, who would become the Vice President of the new republic, proposed the "United Mindanao Army". Juan Sagun, a Lumad Protestant from Zamboanga City proposed the Mindanao Democratic Party. However, it is Musinal Islam's proposal, the "Mindanao Nationalist Party" that won most of the votes. It is here that the Mindanao Nationalist Party was finally formed. 

The next discussion was the name of the new independent state. Many people considered naming the island "Malaysia" or "North Malaysia", but 57% of the datus and chiefs agreed with keeping the name "Mindanao" and the official name would become the Republic of Mindanao. 

The people of the Sulu Archipelago, however, sought to reform the Sultanate of Sulu rather than become part of the Republic. Piang respected Abirin's political wishes. Under Sultan Jainal Abirin, while he and a group of other Tausūg chief leaders attended the convention, it was finally decided that two independent, yet allied polities would be formed: the Republic of Mindanao and the Kingdom of Sulu. The Republic of Mindanao would control the entire island of Mindanao, the Kingdom of Sulu would be given control of the Sulu Archipelago. 

Republic of Mindanao 1949-1967

In 1949, Gumbay Piang and Jainal Abirin declared their independence,. This was the same year that Indonesia had gained independence. Piang received the support of Indonesians for the independence of Mindanao and was pronounced the President of the Republic of Mindanao, Salipada Pendatun his Vice President and Juan Sagun - who was the Prime Minister.

Piang sent the declaration to Manila and Jakarta. However, the Philippines did not recognize them as an independent state, and sent Filipino troops to the south to consolidate Mindanao and Sulu's status as Philippine territory. This would begin the Mindanao Independence War. Indonesia, however, recognized them but did not send troops, being that the country was new, impoverished and Sukarno wanted to maintain neutral relations with the Philippines - whom he considered a great friend and ally. 

Dissolution of the Oiginal Republic

The Moro nationalist held out through four presidencies, until Ferdinand Marcos strengthened the presence of Philippine soldiers in Mindanao. In 1967, Karim Piang and Ferdinand Marcos signed the Mindanao Peace Treaty, in which the Philippine government would protect the native culture of Mindanao if they surrendered, effectively ending the Republic of Mindanao.

However, Marcos' inner circles turned back on his promise and began government resettlement programs, sending swarms of Ilocano, Visayan and Tagalog migrants en masse to Mindanao. Therefore, the insurgencies continued and the Filipino Armed Forces had actually given light on the idea of granting Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago their independence. However, Marcos refused. Eventually, the migrants began to outnumber the natives in many cities. By 1986, they formed the majority in General Santos City, Cagayan de Oro and Davao City. 

Legacy and Continuation of Culture Within Philippine Administration

Though despite the Republic being dissolved, its political influence remained nearly untouched in the southern Philippines, the Parti Kebangsaan remained intact and the most powerful political party in the southern Philippines. They helped and played a role in the passage of laws that would protect the native cultures of the southern Philippines. Corazon Aquino, the following President after Ferdinand Marcos supported the native culture of Mindanao and established ties with the Parti Kebangsaan. With help of the Lakas-CMD, a fellow right-wing political party in Mindanao, Republic Act No. 5422 was
Filipino-moro flag

Filipino flag and the 1949-version Republic of Mindanao flag flown side by side at the Cotabato City Police's HQ

passed which set limitations and restrictions of migrations of people to Mindanao. Migration was temporarily suspended for two years. This law was known to have saved Mindanao's native culture from becoming a minority. 

August 4, which is the date of Mindanao's independence, is still celebrated in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. It is celebrated as Moro Heritage Day. 

Moro flag controversy

In the southern Philippines, historical flags of the Republic of Mindanao, as well as
MNLF holds prayer rally in Cagayan de Oro-L

A native soldier in Mindanao holds the Philippine and Mindanao Republic flag

the Kingdom of Sulu flags, are still flown on people's vehicles, and even businesses and private property. It is often compared to the status of the Confederate flag and its association with southern American culture. It is also flown by Moro communities living elsewhere in the Philippines, particularly in cities like Manila or Cebu City where large communities of Tausūg and Maranaoan people live. The Conservative Party, in the wake of the 2013 Zamboanga City Crisis, introduced a bill that would ban all Moro flags, and have them taken down from provincial capital grounds in the southern Philippines. They argued that Moro flags stand for hate and terrorism. Rodrigo Duterte, the Mayor of Davao City supported such a ban. The bill failed to become law. Duterte later retracted during his 2016 presidential run, saying he misunderstood and completely supports the right of Moros and Lumads to fly the flags of their heritage.

There were some protests to have the flags removed from the campus grounds of Mindanao State University. 

Nur Misuari said, "The Moro flag, as well as the historical flag of the Sulu Sultanate represents our heritage here in the southern Philippines." 

China Gets Involved 2015-present

In 2015, hopes of the republic resurged as China became publicly involved. Moro nationalists called on Beijing to supply them.

American military personnel spotted Chinese warplanes and warships approaching rapidly. Aquino III approved for military mobilization, thus, American and Filipino troops geared up for combat, however, the United States could only act as a backer for the Philippine forces as Obama had not yet approved for full military mobilization.

Chinese aerial forces however, skipped Manila and headed straight for Mindanao. They were pursued by Filipino air forces, who were beaten in quick air duels. Thus, Aquino's presidency ended amid a war. China also supplied Moro rebels with SAM technology, resulting in the downing of an American pilot. 

Chinese forces were strategic, followed international human rights law, and avoided confrontations with citizens. 

The following president, Rodrigo Duterte expelled American forces from the Philippines and called for peaceful dialogue with China. Duterte convinced Putin and Russia to get involved, as mediators. 

In 2017, the Chinese air force again carried out air strikes against the 2nd Zamboanga Constabulary Unit base near Zamboanga City, claiming that it was harboring ISIS and Abu-Sayyaf terrorists. President Duterte was displeased.

In March of 2018, Russia began withdrawing half of its personnel from the Philippines. In April of 2018, the Chinese notified both the Philippine and Russian forces in Mindanao that another airstrike was en route to Cotabato City. Ten Chinese-owned Sukhoi Su-27s launched air strikes all over Mindanao and Sulu. Russian and Indonesian warships nearby closely monitored the Chinese airstrikes.

Duterte was again, infuriated taking a liking to President Donald Trump, contemplated on requesting American aid. Chinese forces increased their troop presence all over cities in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. Chinese troops and Moro paramilitary occupied vacated Filipino bases. By this point, China had already "technically" achieved its goal in carving out a Moro puppet state.

About 1/4 of Mindanao, and all of the Sulu Archipelago is now under Chinese military and Moro rebel control. Chinese troop presence is also aimed at training and supplying paramilitary, to be considered part of the future republic's armed forces.

The Chinese navy has also provided naval training for Tausūg and native Sulu fighters, to get them familiar with warship technology, stating that it plans to arm Mindanao and Sulu with a small, but modern naval force.

There have been rumors of human rights violations committed by Chinese and Moro forces, against Visayan-speaking peoples, those they consider "not belonging" to the land due to not being native. 

General Xeng Lao and Moro leader Nur Misuari dismissed the claims.

There has been leaked information claiming that Rodrigo Duterte has chosen to give Mindanao and Sulu full independence. However, Philippine state media has stated that "all will be decided on June 1", which has been their only response to the allegations. 

Official Independance, and American involvement 2018-present

Nimitz deployed

The USS Ronald Raegan en route to the Philippines

After receiving Duterte's plea, President Donald Trump warned Chinese forces in Mindanao that the United States was going to be sending its troops, and not to continue anywhere past the territories it has successfully conquered. China sent another aircraft carrier, the Type 001-A to accompany the Liaoning in the South China Sea, upon hearing that the United States was going to be sending a respective carrier group of its own to the region.

Trump notified Duterte that the United States would not try to start major attacks against Chinese forces, but will use its presence to contain Chinese presence, and will respond with an iron fist if Chinese troops or Moro fighters harmed American troops.

Chinese carrier

The Chinese Type 001-A en route to Mindanao after learning of the approaching U.S. carrier group

On June 1, the Republic of Mindanao and Sulu received full independence from the Philippines, and became a trust territory of China, under Chinese military protection as it transitions into a fully sovereign state.

While Kuala Lumpur respected the decision, Malaysian authorities still feared that the Mindanaoans would use Chinese aid for a future incursion into Sabah. Therefore, Malaysian forces strengthened their presence in Sabah, the Royal Malaysian Navy sent a heavy concentration of warships around its portion of the Sulu and South China Sea.

All of ASEAN respected the decision, and recognized Mindanao and Sulu's independence from the Philippines.

Government and politics

The Republic of Mindanao is slated to have a presidential system of government, though s parliamentary republican government was considered. The founders of the Republic of Mindanao met in Cotabato City to discuss the constitution, in the event known as the First Cotabato City Convention. Piang, having returned to Mindanao from the Dutch East Indies, modeled Constitution of Mindanao after Sukarno's Pancasila, consisting of five main points. On January 2, Piang finalized the Constitution of Mindanao, known as the Perlembagaan Mindanao, and was drafted on January 3, 1946.

Here were the points: 

  1. Religious freedom 
  2. Civilized and just humanity
  3. Unity of Mindanao
  4. Democracy through inner-wisdom and representative consensus-building
  5. Social justice for all people of Mindanao and Sulu

The founders of the Kingdom of Sulu also adopted this Constitution as the governing body of the Kingdom, with the exception of Point 4 which was changed to, "Loyalty to the Sultan, loyalty to the people" which pointed towards a constitutional monarchy.

As such, the President was the head of state, who formed part of the Executive Branch, consisting of the President and the Vice President. The President acted as the Commander-in-Chief of the Mindanao Free Army, the official fighting force of the Republic of Mindanao. The government of Mindanao also contained a bicameral legislative branch. 



The economy of the Republic of Mindanao is slated to resemble that of the original de facto republic, and be largely agriculture-based, with goldsmithing and technology to play an important role. Agriculture has always been integral to the island of Mindanao in general..


Nur Misuari stated that the Republic of Mindanao will make efforts to support a strong technology and industrial economy. 


Currently, a number of currencies, including the Chinese yuan, Filipino peso, Malaysian ringgit and Indonesian rupiah are also being used by lands controlled by the republic.

The future currency will be the Mindanaoan kepeng, circulated in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 10,000. The name originates from an ancient currency used in the historical Majapahit Empire. The coins were known as the bilahs, the Javanese name for the blade of a kris sword. They were mostly made of copper and nickel. 

One kepeng is estimated to be worth $0.13 in USD. 

National Defense

As of right now, the Republic of Mindanao and Sulu does not have a single uniformed armed force and neither are there plans to establish one. However, there are multiple multiple armed paramilitary groups that operate professionally like a military force, such as the Zamboanga Force, Cotabato Force, Lanao Force and the Sulu Force. The combined expenditure of these groups is estimated to be around $472.4 million. These paramilitary groups operate modern small-arms, and an estimated 103 AFVs are reported to be in use by the various paramilitary groups, mainly as gendermarie weapons.

These are under Chinese backing and supervision.

In addition, it's a tradition to keep weapons and arms, an estimated 67.4% of people are estimated to own at least one firearm, not counting knives or swords. 

Moros and Lumads traditionally never favored having a standing army, favoring a home militia-based defense, as the republic's founder Gumbay Piang had repeatedly admonished against standing armies, stating that...... "standing armies are one of the grassroots to totalitarianism, something we are fighting against. They [Philippines] know we are doing this, their response will result in a lot of bloodshed, this is why I order every single datu, barangay leader, household head, able-bodied person to be armed, at all times.

President Nur Misuari stated, ".....spending billions on a big and high-tech military controlled by a central government is the last and the least of our concerns, not only do we not have the money for that, we need to make sure we are well-armed enough to control internal conflicts and defend our people. With our home army doctrine, I think this is taken care of. We have well-armed citizens in our jungles and forests, so if the Filipinos and Americans want to try us, we'll give them another Vietnam War."

The Mindanao Free Army was the "armed forces" of the original de facto republic led by Gumbay Piang, however most officials of Mindanao and Sulu mostly accept the Mindanao Free Army as a historic fighting force.

President Misuari stated, " regards to the Mindanao Free Army, we definately honor our forefathers who have served in the honorable Mindanao Free Army, as well as the historical forces of the past Sultans and Kings who ruled our great civilizations. But like those armies of the Sultans and the Kings, we truly feel it is best that the Mindanao Free Army remain in history."


Currently, Malay and English are the main state official languages, accompanied by Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausūg and Chavacano as co-official languages of the republic as the republic's linguistic heritage is a mut.  Although the constitution was originally written in Malay and English, indigenous leaders printed copies of the Constitution of Mindanao in their own respective languages, using the English version since practically, the majority of the people did not speak Malay, Malay in reality remained more of a symbolic official language than a practical ones. These copies have been preserved, a Maguindanao, Maranao and Tausūg translation of the Constitution of Mindanao exists.  The vernacular of Malay spoken is colloquially known as Mindanao Malay (Melayu Mindanao), peviously known as "Southern Philippine Malay", It has been natonalized to become the national dialect of Malay spoken in the republic, and despite being referred to as "Malay proper" by the state authorities, it closely resembles Indonesian, and has many differences from the Malaysian and Bruneian counterparts, in that it contains words from the native languages of Mindanao. Like Indonesian, "Tuhan" and not "Allah" is used for God, whereas the latter is used in the Malaysian and Bruneian dialect. The language, as spoken in Mindanao and Sulu is administered by the Administration of the National Language of the Republic of Minadanao and Sulu, who is, in the process of releasing the Kamus Bahasa Kebangsaan di Minanao dan Sulu.


At the moment, Islam is practiced by over 78.6% of the people that would comprise of the modern republic. The rest are Christians, particularly Roman Catholic and Protestant. Marawi City would be considered the "religious capital" in the republic, and the only autonomous city, while Kota Batu or Zamboanga City are the administrative capital.

Roman Catholics form communities in Lamitan in Sulu, as well as Lanao del Norte, where they form 41.4%, compared to 47.1% of Muslims. They inhabit the majority of Tubod and Bayug. 

Traces of Animism, Hinduism and Buddhism can still be found.


Flag of Mindanao

The official flag of the republic. The six white stars represent the great kingdoms of Mindanao and Sulu (Maguindanao, Lanao, Sulu, Bukidnon, Buluan and Butuan)

Contrary to what most belief, the red flag with a kris and crescent-moon and Arabic calligraphy commonly used by Moro nationalists today, was not the official flag of the Republic of Mindanao. It was a battle flag, used by united groups of Moros throughout. The Republic had no official flag, its first initial design was very Islamic in nature, and only used for one year from 1949 to 1950. That flag consisted of a mostly green background, with a white stripe to the left, with white kris complemented by
Ph mnlf-tripoli

Official battle flag used by Moro groups, this flag is often mistaken as the official flag the republic used

Arabic calligraphy. However, Gumbay Piang, Juan Sagun and Salipada Pendatun wanted the native people of Mindanao, of all religions to be represented and while espousing Moro nationalism, not only confining the freedom of Mindanao to the Moro Muslim people.

Therefore, a new design was unveiled, by a group of both Moros and Lumads from central and northern Mindanao, which was chosen to become the official flag throughout the republic's existence.

The new flag featured a white stripe, red stripe - to symbolize the blood spilled on to the land defending it. Then it was followed by a green background, with five white stars across the center. Each star represents one of the great kingdoms of Mindanao, they are: the Sultanate of Maguindanao, Sultanate of Lanao, Sultanate of Buluan, Rajahnate of Butuan and Rajahnate of Bukidnon. During Spanish occupation, these kingdoms formed an alliance that battled against the Spanish Empire. In 1955, a sixth star was added to represent the Sultanate of Sulu after Sulu became integrated as part of the Republic. A gold kris is featured underneath the stars as the weapon is very symbolic to the native peoples of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.