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A win-win solution

/ 09:40 PM January 10, 2014

Should President Aquino succeed in forging a practicable and just peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in his “last two minutes” as chief administrator, he would have done a historic service to our people, both Muslims and Christians.

Along with the Reproductive Health Law, which he succeeded in pushing through despite strong resistance from the dominant Catholic Church, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro will remove one of two huge roadblocks to our unity and progress.


The Muslim “resistance” or “rebellion” started in the Spanish conquest in the mid-16th century, raged through to the US colonization at the turn of the 20th century, and rampaged on to the post-independence era from 1946 and the start of the 21st century.  It has lasted for half a millennium, causing rivers of fraternal blood to flow and countless treasures to be destroyed.

The Christian conversion of the inhabitants of the Visayas and Luzon while the Muslim inhabitants of Mindanao and Palawan tightly embraced their traditional faith has led to suspicion and hostility between our peoples of the North and South. Yet we are of the same Malay race and also a part of a continental race, the Asians. Most Malaysians and Indonesians are Muslims. But the tortuous course of history put the Malaysians under British colonial rule and the Indonesians under Dutch rule.

Both Protestant powers, the English and the Dutch were more interested in getting rich through trade, extraction of gold and minerals, and using native labor to tend the plantations that export their crops to the home country, than in propagating spreading their faith.

But the Catholic majesties of Spain, in addition to seeking economic gains, were also on a mission to save souls. It was Pope Alexander VI who, in the famous papal bull of 1493, gave Spain and Portugal the right to “own” territories that they “discover” in their overseas explorations. The condition was that they spread the Catholic faith everywhere so that “the health of souls will be procured … and barbarous nations overthrown and brought to the faith itself.”

But Islam was already here when the Spaniards came, though concentrated in Sulu and southern Mindanao, brought there by Arab traders. There were also Muslim settlements in the Visayas, and also in Manila, which was a citadel ruled by Muslim datus.

The arrival of a foreign faith, backed by the might of a European power, led to a “clash of cultures” that continues to disturb us with endless bloodletting and inestimable losses in urban and communal fortunes. That clash is illustrated dramatically by the “Moro-Moro” plays still shown in the festivals of Christian communities in which Muslim warriors are portrayed as pirates who raid Christian villages for plunder and rape.

But these “piratical raids” can also be interpreted as a retaliation for similar raids conducted by Spanish soldiers on Muslim communities, aided by their Christian converts, in order to complete their conquest of the archipelago—a task which they never accomplished despite 350 years of intermittent fighting.

A basic policy of colonialism is “divide and rule.” Countless generations of Filipinos have been bred in this sociopolitical-religious culture of mutual mistrust, suspicion and hostility. It will be difficult to blot out this attitude unless we experience a national awakening.

The nationalist historian Teodoro Agoncillo, in his book “History of the Filipino People,” wrote that the Moro-Moro play was one of the attractions, along with the “Flores de Mayo” and “Santacruzan,” staged by the Spanish friars to lure the native population to reside in the towns so they will shun outlawry and rebellion and be taught by the authorities to become pious Christians and law-abiding subjects.


In fact, the Moro-Moro was imported direct from Spain where it was popular festival fare, recalling the Spanish struggle against the Moors who had occupied that country from the 8th to the 15th centuries.

Aside from resisting Spanish colonialism to the end, the Moros were the last Filipinos to fight against US domination.  While in Luzon and the Visayas, the anti-American resistance was declared officially ended in 1901 with the surrender of Emilio Aguinaldo, the fighting in Mindanao did not stop until 1913 when US troops slaughtered from 6,000 to 10,000 Moro fighters in the Battle of Bud Bagsak in Sulu.

The fierce Moro resistance famously led to the invention of the Colt .45 automatic pistol as ordinary revolvers used in the US Civil War could not stop the suicide charges of the Moro warriors, pejoratively branded as “juramentados” (the crazed ones). US Gen. John J. Pershing earned his stars from the Moro wars, meriting him to lead the US forces in Europe in World War I.

Thus, the Moros have earned with their blood their right to live in their own culture and under their own autonomous and democratic rule. Separatism is another matter, for it would leave our country dismembered, and perpetually weak. Abraham Lincoln’s greatness arose from his successful effort to keep the United States undivided, assuring its global preeminence in the future.

The leaders of the white apartheid regime avoided a bloody denouement of their minority rule in South Africa when they finally realized that the majority black South Africans under the leadership of Nelson Mandela would accept no less than equality for ending their violent opposition.

The signing of the responsibility-sharing annex by the government and the MILF is a positive step toward national reconciliation. While the Philippine government retains responsibility for foreign policy, defense, monetary policy and global trade, the Bangsamoro government will be responsible for agriculture, employment, urban development, public works and the environment. It will also be responsible for raising its own revenues for local development.

Financially, the national government will immensely benefit. It will be freed from its obligation of giving a huge annual budgetary subsidy to the Bangsamoro. It will also stop the hemorrhage of government funds for military suppression of the centuries-old rebellion. The Christian communities will also gain, because they will enjoy lasting peace with their Bangsamoro compatriots, and together they can focus on realizing the “promise” of Mindanao as a land of peace and plenty.

It’s a win-win solution.

Manuel F. Almario ( is a veteran journalist. He is also spokesman of the Movement for Truth in History, Rizal’s MOTH.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro, Christians, Commentary, Manuel F. Almario, MILF, Mindanao peace process, muslims, opinion
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