MAHATMA Gandhi once said, “A man is but the product of his thoughts; What he thinks, he becomes”. I believe these words are powerful in addressing the problems of violent extremism in Mindanao.
In our fight against violent extremism, we need to learn how the violent extremists think and act to advance their political agenda. The current Bangsamoro peace process tells us that the drivers for insurgency are almost always the same as the drivers of violent extremism. These drivers include feelings of being oppressed, a sense of victimhood, and the government not doing enough for their welfare.
When these drivers are present, they give rise to thoughts of violence. Those people that have been pushed around too much become so-called “justice collectors”, and take reform into their own hands. Extremists take advantage of this current reality and they radicalize and recruit them in joining their cause.
We have seen these instances occur for the past ten years. We had the failure of the signing of the Memorandum Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOAD) in 2008 that led to the attacks in North Cotabato and Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.
This failure of the government led to the establishment of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, as a splinter group of the MILF and recently pledged allegiance to the Dawla Islamiah.
Moreover, the failure of then-President Noynoy Aquino’s inclusion of the Moro National Liberation Front in the formal peace talks led to the Zamboanga Siege in 2013. Also, failure of the said administration in passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (2014), led to the uprising of the Maute group. This group together with the Abu Sayyaf were responsible in the Marawi Siege.
Last week, the bicameral conference committee approved a common version of Bangsamoro Organic Law, formerly known as the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The said organic law, which was ratified by the Senate on Monday, aims to institutionalize provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamaro (CAB). The CAB was signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.
It was a year ago when the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) submitted to Office of the President the final draft of the then-BBL. Thereafter, it took Congress and Senate a year to study the BBL, conduct public consultations and hearings, and eventually deliberated on the said bill before submitting it for the President Duterte to sign it.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law was ratified in the Senate last Monday before President Duterte’s speech for the SONA. Unfortunately, it was not ratified in the House of Representatives due to internal leadership issues. Sec. Jesus Dureza of OPAPP said, “The Bangsamoro Organic Law suffered this temporary setback, as a ‘collateral damage’ to an internal leadership issue in the House but I trust and expect that in due time, the ratification which it deserves, will take place as a matter of course.”
Our government is doing its best to pass a law that will address the conflict in Mindanao and to rectify the historical injustices against the Bangsamoro. We need to believe this, because we are part of the government. As a citizen of this Republic, peace lies in our hands, to make sure that the government delivers it promise to the Bangsamoro.
A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes. Hence, we need to educate our people that they are part of the government. We need to empower them and be responsible citizens. They need to be able to end the cycle of violence and hopelessness. Lastly, Bangsamoro must have knowledge about their role in their communities, their country, and the rest of humanity. They need to participate in productive activities, ones that will make their dreams come true. They must become change agents that act out against social, economic, and environmental injustices.
A responsible and empowered Bangsamoro is the best antidote against violent extremism.