Peace for Mindanao

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By Ver Pacete

As I See It

Saturday, February 16, 2013

THE PNoy administration would like to make a peace landmark in Mindanao. We all want peace… genuine peace. Every Filipino is dreaming that a negotiated political settlement of the Mindanao conflict and the Bangsamoro problem could be a solution. The Republic of the Philippines is now negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

This is not a new choreography. The late SalamatHashim, the then-MILF head, started orchestrating as early as 2003 and his position was not just forwarded to the Republic of the Philippines but to Pres. George W. Bush. The MILF did not believe that our national government could handle its plea to expand the Muslim autonomous region and to shift to federal form. The government negotiators under the Aquino administration said that the peace agreement may require amendments to the Constitution.

I hope this is not a recycled trap concocted by the MILF. Sometime in August 2008, the Arroyo administration prepared a peace pact to be signed in Malaysia. That was the ‘Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain’ (MOA-AD). Elected Christian and Muslim leaders in the area doubted if that pact could really bring peace. That was dangerous because during that time a territory was already identified to be ceded to the rebels. Uncle Sam was so silent on that. He was eyeing for the natural gas in Liguasan Marsh.


The Muslims do not really want to be under the Philippine government. In history, there is always the historical alienation of Muslim and Christian Filipino. The Americans knew this because this was the aim of the Bacon Bill introduced in US Congress in 1926. The bill provided the eventual inclusion of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan in the United States. Tydings- McDuffie Act granted our independence. Before that, Muslim datus in Dansalan (now Marawi City) sent a declaration to the US president and Congress against the independence for Mindanao and Sulu.

The fear of the Muslims was true. Mindanao was opened to Christian settlers. That was the start of economic insecurities, greater tension and political struggles on the part of the Muslims. It was unearthed that there were anomalies and misused of funds for the cultural minorities. Ex-governor UdtogMatalam issued a manifest on May 1, 1968 expressing the Muslim desire to break away from the Philippines and create a Republic of Mindanao and Sulu.

The ‘Ilagas and Barracudas’ conflict further divided the Muslims and Christians. The separatists called for a ‘jihad’ (holy war). Later, the separatists organized the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under NurllahjiMisuari. Islamic nations partook in our local problem. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) demanded that Muslims in Mindanao should be treated fairly. President Ferdinand Marcos agreed to a peaceful negotiation with MNLF and that gave birth to the 1976 Tripoli Agreement in Libya.

The 1986 Cory Constitution created the autonomous region for the Muslims. That led to the passage of the Organic Act by Philippine Congress. Misuari rejected the Organic Act at the outset. The dream of the MNLF of a ‘Bangsa Moro’ that included the whole of Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-tawi and even Palawan remained a dream.

The move of PNoy, we hope, is not just a strategy for the May 2013 elections. We have to reconcile warring factions, heal old wounds, and offer genuine solution. Can the MNLF just stay at the nook like a kitten while the MILF takes the center stage? The Gordian Knot is still there. “Commune periculumconcordiamparit.” We hope that a common danger begets unity.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 16, 2013.


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