Peace pact signing and a brawl

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Friday, March 28, 2014


FINALLY, the comprehensive peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been signed. The ceremony attended by more than a thousand guests at the Malacañang grounds last Thursday was therefore historic.

The next step would be the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindasnao (ARMM), which was also the subject of a peace pact between the then administration of Fidel V. Ramos and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The Bangsamoro entity will be an expanded ARMM.

"No more war, no more children scampering for safety, no more evacuees, no more lost school days or school months, no more injustice, no more misgovernance, no more poverty, no more fear. Tama na, we are all tired of it," said Teresita Quintos-Deles, the presidential adviser on the peace process.

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I do not share Deles’s optimism, however. It still remains to be seen whether the agreement would usher in the hoped for peace in Mindanao or would end up like the government’s peace pact with the MNLF. Will a new armed group surface to derail the process? Will the MNLF mess it?

Everything will be in the hands of the MILF, however, just like the survival of ARMM depended much on the MNLF and its head, Nur Misuari. Misuari failed miserably in governing the ARMM and improving the lot of his constituents. Because of that, discontent remained among the Moro people and the MILF flourished despite ARMM.

Also, there is no assurance that another armed group carrying the banner of the Bangsamoro will not surface once the peace pact is implemented. The MNLF still exists, though already weakened. It could try to make itself “relevant” again. The Abu Sayyaf is still a threat, so too a breakaway faction of the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Force (BIAF).

But if the MILF plays its card well, it can marginalize the other armed groups. The key is to govern sincerely and well.

***

Militants already know this admonition: no investigation, no right to speak. What it did in Mendiola can be considered a violation of this admonition. They did not investigate, and they spoke. The result was that they looked silly.

It actually started as a daring march to commemorate the 45th founding anniversary of the New People’s Army (NPA). I said daring because the participants carried the banner of underground organizations like the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the latter’s member groups like the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), etc.

Had violence not erupted, the march-rally would have been a slap on the face of law enforcers and even the administration of President Noynoy Aquino. But the militants pushed their luck and moved beyond the Chino Roces Bridge where Muslim groups were celebrating the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement Thursday.

Either they didn’t know that the Muslim groups were there or they knew but underestimated the Muslim groups’ own “militance.” The militants’ entry sparked a confrontation that effectively broke up their rally. The Muslim groups even tore down the militants’ streamers while shouting “Allahu Akbar.”

That does not mean that the Muslim groups should not be condemned for the attack.

Using violence is always condemnable especially during a mass gathering in public.

What made the act ironic is that the gathering was supposed to celebrate the signing of the peace agreement between the government and the MILF. The stress there is on “peace.”

More than that, the act played into the wrong notion that Muslims are prone to committing acts of violence. Which is unfortunate.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 29, 2014.

Opinion

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