VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Dong Mangudadatu WRONG on world’s ‘longest-running’ armed group

Maguindanao 2nd district representative and senatorial candidate Zajid “Dong” Mangudadatu is wrong to claim the world’s oldest active armed group is in Mindanao.


In the head-to-head portion of the Feb. 9 GMA senatorial debate, Mangudadatu, who is running under Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), explained why he voted in favor of the martial law extension in Mindanao:


“Alam po natin the longest-running armed group in the world ay nasa atin (We know that we have the longest-running armed group in the world).”

Source: GMA News, REPLAY: Debate 2019: The GMA Senatorial Face-Off, Feb. 9, 2019, watch from 1:43:54 to 1:43:59

Mangudadatu did not explicitly say which organization he was referring to, but the oldest active armed rebel group in Mindanao is the New People’s Army (NPA), the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which was established in 1968.


The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) are two of the world’s longest-running insurgency groups, even older than the CPP-NPA.

Myanmar’s KNLA, the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), a political organization representing the Karen ethnic minority group, was founded in 1947.

In a 2018 statement published in Burma Link, an advocacy nonprofit, the KNLA, the oldest insurgency group in Myanmar, described itself as a “revolutionary resistance army fighting for the liberation of the Karen people.”

The statement also said:

“For nearly 70 years, it (KNLA) has been struggling to defend the Karen people from all kinds of adversaries, to provide security for their lives and homes, and to reach the goal in the form of a Karen State, free from all kinds of oppressions. However, the goal has still not been reached and the KNLA is still in the state of struggle.”

Source: Burma Link, Karen National Liberation Army Statement, May 10, 2018

In an August 2018 report, the KNU said it would continue to work for a peace deal with the government three years after it entered peace negotiations. However, a KNU officer said the KNLA would “continue to defend the territory it currently holds and resist any attempt by the military to take it,” as reported by ReliefWeb, a specialized information service on global crises of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The ELN or the National Liberation Army, founded in 1964, was recently dubbed the “oldest and largest insurgency in Latin America” in a 2016 report by The Guardian. This was after its older and more powerful counterpart, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), signed a peace accord with the government in November 2016.

The ELN was initiated by student and religious movements–following a civil war between Colombia’s liberal and conservative factions–which sought the “establishment of a Christian communist regime” to address poverty.

The group “seeks land reform” and has specifically targeted multinational companies that engage in mining and oil activities for “allegedly ‘plundering the country’s natural resources’,” as documented by a Stanford University study, Reuters and the Washington Post.

The ELN, which was added in the United States’ list of foreign terrorists in 1997, claimed responsibility for a car bombing in January that killed at least 20 police officers in Bogota. The CPP-NPA was included in the same U.S. list in 2002.



GMA News, REPLAY: Debate 2019: The GMA Senatorial Face-Off, Feb. 9, 2019

Karen National Union, History

Burma Link, Karen National Liberation Army Statement, May 10, 2018

ReliefWeb, Karen National Union Recommits to Peace Process at Meeting, Aug. 27, 2018, Karen National Liberation Army, National Liberation Army, Aug. 17, 2015

Insight Crime, ELN, March 3, 2017

Colombia Reports, Profiles: National Liberation Army (ELN), Oct. 27, 2018

The Guardian, Che Guevara era closes as Latin America’s oldest guerrilla army calls it a day, Sept. 25, 2016

Britannica, La Violencia, dictatorship, and democratic restoration

BBC News, Guide to the Philippines conflict, Oct. 8, 2012, Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army, Aug. 14, 2015

Britannica, New People’s Army, n.d.

U.S. Department of State, Foreign Terrorist Organizations

The Washington Post, Colombia is trying to end 50 years of war, but one rebel group won’t stop its attacks, Jan. 11, 2018

Reuters, Colombia’s ELN rebels say deadly car bomb was legitimate act of war, Jan. 21, 2019

CNN, ELN claims responsibility for Bogota car bomb that killed 20 at a police academy, Jan. 21, 2019, ELN rebels claim responsibility for car bomb attack on Bogota police academy, Jan. 21, 2019


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)