Going beyond the whiplash of Mamasapano
Is the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) now collateral damage from Mamasapano? The situation may be fluid, but it is a real opportunity to revisit the premises of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the draft law to determine a way to peace. The challenge is to find a solid foundation for sustainable peace.
“All we are saying is give peace a chance,” goes John Lennon’s popular antiwar anthem, This is the desire of the majority of the Filipino people: Muslims, Christians, those of other faiths, and atheists, too. The Philippines is one nation under one God called by different names. There was jubilation when the CAB was signed last year, and Mamasapano can derail that big leap forward. But the peace process must not stop. No peace process anywhere in the world must stop. The work for peace is by itself giving peace a chance.
But the fundamental premises of the BBL must proceed from peace and goodwill among all parties. A starting point is the need for Filipinos, through the government and different religious institutions, to seek forgiveness from their countrymen, Muslims and non-Muslims: children, women and men who have been victims of violence by poverty or by war. There are many causes for the prolonged war. “Mea culpas” are in order. At the other end is the need for the Bangsamoro people to recognize that they are Filipinos despite the decades-long civil strife. Secession as an aspiration must be set aside completely and absolutely; otherwise, there will always be the threat of war despite the “peace.”
In the preamble of the draft BBL, absent is a declaration of the Filipino citizenship of the Bangsamoro people. There is reference to the “Constitution” without specifying the 1987 Constitution, which categorically recognizes the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination. The Bangsamoro flag will have to be raised alongside the Philippine flag.
An asymmetrical structure of government is proposed. Asymmetry, however, exists not only in form (i.e., presidential versus parliamentary) but also in the system (democracy versus
theocracy). The separation of church and state is essential in a democracy; church and state overlap in a theocracy. State leaders and church leaders are distinct in a democracy and the government is secular; state leaders are subordinated to church leaders in a theocracy. Thus, the participation of the “imam” in the peace process should contribute to stabilizing the dynamics. Islam must begin to be appreciated by the people at large as a religion of peace. The true God of all peoples is a creative, not destructive, God. God is for peace; God is peace. The secular leaders of a regime founded on the primacy of God take guidance and counsel from and defer to the authority of religious and spiritual leaders. The latter must be proactive in the process.
In a democracy, power emanates from the people and freedoms are enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Religious leaders intervene in matters of morals exclusively; secular leaders get guidance from any religious leader they choose.
The Bangsamoro setup recognizes democracy, but the influence of Islam will be at the core of governance. War must be precluded and denounced. Self-determination must be exclusively in governance, and the right to self-rule must exclude armed militia and police. This is rightfully reserved power for the central government. This is a critical element that will determine whether peace will be sustainable, or not.
Those are my two cents’ worth, as the cliché goes. Those are only inputs which may have been considered. Simply, the point is: Every peace process must be comprehensive, with the premises clearly spelled out and the inclusion total.
Crucial now is going beyond the whiplash of Mamasapano. Healing cannot begin as the real and gory details are uncovered. The revelations in the Senate hearings deepened the divide instead of bridging the gaps. With the unauthenticated video of the “massacre” going viral on YouTube, outrage has deepened. How can sobriety and calm rule once again?
All the players in the peace process, in Mamasapano, and in the investigation may have to go through their own internal peace process. Something tragic has happened. The civilian casualties have not even been given adequate attention. Can the players truly tell themselves that there is no omission on their part that allows this continuing tragedy? Filipino lives were also lost on the side of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Their loved ones are now widows and orphans. They are victims as well. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters must realize that war will not lead to the provision of what the Bangsamoro people need, and the Bangsamoro people must likewise reach out to them. There is no room for an Isis-type crusade. Nor should the Moro National Liberation Front be excluded from the process. A peace agreement will not bring peace unless everyone is a party.
Malaysia is the sponsor of the peace process, including the preceding negotiation that led to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, which the Supreme Court has struck down. No arms or funding for arms must go through this country into the hands of any group that will disrupt the peace. The sponsor’s motivation must be demonstrably pure. The US government has also been a party with keen interest. The war against terror is a global concern, true, but it must be worked out under absolute mutual respect. Self-serving agenda must be set aside completely.
Indeed, there is no quick fix; the situation is very complex and tough. But there is no other option but for all to confront the challenges
Danilo S. Venida ([email protected]) holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the University of the Philippines and the Center for Research and Communication/University of Asia and the Pacific. He is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and is now a business consultant.
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