AFTER 90 percent of Catalans voted for it in a referendum (that Spain’s central government tried to forcefully prevent and stop) the autonomous region of Catalunia is reported to declare in a few days its independence from Spain. It would be interesting to see how Spain’s other 16 autonomous regions would react to this, particularly the Basques who have been Spain’s most aggressive separatists.
In many countries of the world there are distinct ethno-cultural groups fighting for either autonomy or, if already autonomous, for independence. To name a few, these are the Scots in England, the Flemish in Belgium, the Bretons in France, the Greeks in Albania, the Cypriots in Greece, the Kurds in Iraq, the Rohingyans of Myanmar, the Hmongs of Vietnam, the Tibetans of China and, of course, the Muslims in the Philippines.
(Take note also that the former Soviet Union broke up when Russians, Georgians, Ukrainians, etc. successfully seceded from, and hence dissolved, the Union.)
What fuels and drives autonomy and/or independence movements of minority ethnic groups is presumably the feeling of being marginalized by the dominant ethnic community that controls central political power. This is because, as history would show, countries where there are active separatist movements achieved unification by the barrel of the gun of either a superior foreign power or a dominant local ethnic group.
Pre-Spanish Philippines, for instance, consisted of many independent tribal kingdoms that the colonizer forcefully unified into one nation. This unity continues to be artificially forced on Filipinos by the local oligarchy (mostly from the dominant tribes) that inherited political power from the previous masters. The domination of the regions is best epitomized in the term “Imperial Manila” the capital of the biggest island and home to the country’s dominant tribes.
For now it’s the Muslims of Mindanao who want autonomy. But if Imperial Manila continues to condescend on Visayans, Mindanaoans and other cultural groups to whom they consistently dole out only a trickle of the country’s economic and political resources, it could happen that these peoples would someday reach the end of their rope and reject with finality the domination by one self-proclaimed superior ethno-cultural and economic group.
Rather than wait for cultural communities to ramp up their struggle for autonomy and/or independence, Filipinos might want to consider it a timely pre-emptive move to shift from artificial unity to natural union of autonomous regions.
Separatist movements are trending globally. The Philippines would do well not to buck this tide because people’s aspirations for basic freedoms are in the long run simply unstoppable.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on October 06, 2017.
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