Like It Is

Why not live together?

01:26 AM March 05, 2015

The more I think about it, the more unsettled I am about this Mindanao issue, and I wonder if we had allowed it to drag into something it should never be.

The Philippines is constitutionally a secular state, divorced from religion. Its laws, its schooling, its social character are nonreligious, or meant to be. No one should get special treatment. The overwhelming majority are Catholic, so that inevitably creeps into society (a Christian prayer before every meeting, for example) even though it shouldn’t. But that’s in minor ways. The legal system isn’t Christian; it’s a combination of Roman (civil law) and Anglo-American (common law) systems. The educational system was derived from the American system.


So Muslims should be able to live within society as readily as Christians, or Buddhists, or atheists, or anybody else. Why must Muslims have special treatment? More importantly, why would they want it? Their religious teachings can be taught in Muslim private schools, the way Christianity is taught at the University of Santo Tomas, De La Salle, Ateneo, etc. Public schools don’t promote Christianity.

As to law, the country’s laws and system should prevail. If Muslims have some specific differences, perhaps there can be courts to handle these, but they must be subservient to the nation’s legal system. As the horrific examples in Syria and Afghanistan showed in at least some Muslim communities, you can stone an adulterous woman to death. Under Philippine law, you can’t. And that must prevail.


I am at a loss to understand how religious fervor can be so directed toward killing fellow humans. In this millennium, it seems to be Muslim fanatics that are the culprits. However much peaceful Muslims might deny it, there must be something in the Koran that allows such deadly (mis)interpretation. It is far too widely spread for it to be just a minor aberration of interpretation. It is time peace-loving Muslims came out in massive force to publicly, strongly, fiercely denounce these misguided militants. As it now stands, I don’t see it. Muslims I know are as horrified as I am at the barbarity of the Isis, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, etc., but their disgust is limited to personal anger. This just won’t do. If the core of Islam is indeed for peaceful coexistence, for tolerance and acceptance of others of other faiths, then they must say so in a way that gets to these murderers, in a way these murderers can understand and accept.

Why must Muslims be treated differently, and why must they kill others to get their way? Joe Almonte says in his fascinating autobiography, “Endless Journey”: “When I started to become socially and politically conscious as a young military officer fighting the Huks in the Sierra Madre, I questioned why we were killing our own people. We were of the same stock, with roots in the countryside soil.” I agree: Why indeed are we killing each other? This is no way to get what you want.

The dastardly massacre of 44 brave policemen must not go unpunished. These people are murderers and must spend a lifetime in jail. This wasn’t an act of war, it was a strictly criminal act of murder as the close-range killing of 27 injured soldiers makes abundantly clear to anyone. Why hasn’t the President ordered an immediate massive manhunt for them? If the king of Jordan can declare war over the murder of one man, how much more over the murder of 44? The Moro Islamic Liberation Front must prove its sincerity in wanting peace by cooperating in the capture of these murderers.

The proposed Bangsamoro area cannot be a separate state; it is still part of the Philippine nation. And more so now before an agreement is reached. So the Philippine NATIONAL Police had every right to pursue known criminals anywhere in Philippine territory and did not need the prior agreement of anybody. You don’t catch criminals by telling them in advance you’re coming.

The police weren’t there to wage war against the local Muslim communities; they were there to capture wanted criminals, criminals with a record of murdering numerous innocent people. To attack them while they were doing their duty is against the law. The attackers must be prosecuted—no if or buts.

What this massacre brings to our attention is this: Who is this peace agreement really with? It seems fairly clear that it’s not the Muslim community as a whole, and yet surely it has to be. Maybe it’s a first step—the MILF first, the others later, once this one is proven to work (remember, the last one with the Moro National Liberation Front didn’t). But it has not been explained that way.

If there are Muslims who must live in a strictly Muslim-ordered community, then logically there are two choices I can think of: Secede, or move to a Muslim country. But I don’t see either of these options occurring. So that gives three options: Live in harmony the way the people of Sierra Leone do without need for special enclaves (the best option); agree to a constitutionally acceptable peace agreement creating a Bangsamoro territory as is now being discussed; or go back to war, where nobody wins. That last would be the worst solution of all.


I don’t agree with it as I don’t see it as a solution to the complexity of what we have in Mindanao, but the Bangsamoro Basic Law is at least a step forward. So let’s do it—constitutionally.

However, I have always been hesitant about giving any one group a special deal. Where might it stop? But I recognize the long history of the Moro society and its reasonable claim to some independence. Still I wonder if this is the way. As I raised in my column of Jan. 29, Sierra Leone has Muslims and Christians living happily together under one societal system without need to create special enclaves, or be given special treatment that others aren’t eligible for. Why can’t we do the same?

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TAGS: Catholics, Mindanao, muslims, Religion
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