Turning point in Mindanao’s conflict areas-A A +A
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
IT has been decades of fighting for independence which resulted only in misery, divisiveness, loss of lives and opportunities in what is now known as the areas of conflict in Mindanao.
First, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and then later, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The former saw the futility of its struggle and signed a peace accord and given an autonomous region to govern and be able to address the grievances that they fought for.
Unfortunately, while many of its leaders are intellectuals who are schooled in top educational institution in the Philippines, they lacked the experience in the vagaries of politics in the region they are supposed to navigate to improve and extricate from the models of fiefdoms which was the very core of decadence in the region. Instead, many of the leaders were swallowed by the system and the conditions only got worse even before it got any better.
From this iniquity rises another legion of separatists – the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Their agenda is the same: wanting to gain independence through arms struggle. But just like its predecessor, the MILF cannot succeed because majority of those they want to govern would rather be where they are now. The MNLF and the MILF can only command allegiance from the barrel of the gun but not on the bases of political persuasions that had miserably failed from the first attempt.
Conflicts can be wearisome even if armed clashes are reined-in. The last of the gasping struggle is exemplified by the weakening if not dying Umbra Kato. If we were to believe the rumors, many of his followers have rejoined the mainstream MILF which means that they had placed themselves under the discipline of the Front with whom the government is crafting a viable peace accord.
Everything looks bright. The midterm elections in the offing, those from the MNLF leadership echelon are again joining the democratic political exercise. Top rank Muslimin Sema has declared his unconditional support for peace process between the MILF and the government.
In a more significant step towards reconciliation, Sema is running for mayor of Cotabato and drafted former Commission on Election Regional Director Willy Bueno for vice-mayor. Their lineup shows it all. It is a good mix of Muslims and Christians running under one political ticket. The unity revives the cooperative spirit among the people of Cotabato City in particular and in many places in the so-called conflict areas in Mindanao, which had harmoniously worked in the past.
The past, despite the cultural and religious diversities, saw the election of respectable and dependable leaders.
Political history proved that the few eminent leaders that Mindanao electorate sent to the Senate are Muslims, among them are Senators Hadji Butu Abdul Bagui (1916-1931), Salipada K. Pendatun (1946-1951, 1969-1972), Sen. Mamintal Tamano (1969-1972, 1987-1992), Domocao Alonto (1955-1961) and Sen. Santanina Rasul (1987-1995).
It is unfortunate that in the scheduled midterm elections, none of the two party aggrupation have drafted a Muslim in their tickets. Again, this reflects the insensitivity of the leaders of the nation on the plight and issues that confronts Mindanao.
But the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao can be nurtured to be more responsive to the needs of the region and assertive of what the ARMM deserves. Properly run, who would need the senate? If it is the constituency of the autonomous region they profess to serve, ARMM is just a good venue and springboard for the region’s leaders to launch their political, social and economic reforms.
The incumbent national leadership is not averse to get a bigger share of what can be derived from the natural resources of the region. This is a settled issue in the peace negotiation. This is in addition to the regular budget that, for certain, is going to be more liberal if ARMM could prove its efficiency and capability to govern. But they should bear in mind that whatever money allocated for the development of the region is not for the development of the pocket of a few, like what happened past ARMM administrators.
Interim Gov. Mujib Hataman has shown the way and has demonstrated that it can guard the coffers of the government from the vestiges of a corrupt system of the past that rendered ARMM inutile and added only to the frustration and despair of the people in the autonomous region.
Moreover, as Sema had long realized, peace and reconciliation must settle first in the land ravaged by conflicts and made worse by the intrusion of diabolic terrorist elements which only fanned the fire of discontent.
The clones of Al Qaeda, among them Jemaah Islamiyah and the vicious Abu Sayyaf Guerillas, found the conflict area a veritable spawning ground.
Where the prospects of peace are within reach, the terrorists are feeling the grip of isolation. Reality has sunk in, maybe slowly, but what matters now is that the peace that will follow after this will be more stable and could last from generation to generation.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 03, 2012.