The perils of a scopic Mindanao view | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

The perils of a scopic Mindanao view

To the barrage of criticisms against President Aquino is a common reaction from some loyal followers: Criticizing Mr. Aquino is myopic because it forgets his achievements that previous presidents failed to come up with. The predictable succeeding argument is, Mr. Aquino has sent “corrupt politicians to jail.”

On the other hand, in discussions on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), one commonly hears: “The Moro people cannot be trusted”; “They are traitors”; “They do not consider themselves Filipinos”; and other such arguments.

The arguments on both issues fall under the classification of scopic reasoning which operates from a narrow point of view, leaving no room for intellectual maneuver.

The one on the President is a selectively limited perspective. Bad governance must always be denounced, even if it is the handiwork of a popular president. Good governance advocacy is always predicated on the common good, not partisanship.


The argument that under the Aquino presidency the corrupt are being prosecuted will not sell until we see the President’s corrupt Liberal Party-mates face prosecution, too. That Mr. Aquino is without any capability for corruption is just as scopic as the argument that the Moro people are traitors.

A few years ago, a little Moro girl rode on a float in Baguio City’s Panagbenga Festival. Spectators jeered her as “Abu Sayyaf.” A young Moro woman in Manila was refused a ride by passing taxicabs because of her identifiable hijab head cover. It cannot be denied: Many of our Moro brethren are treated as cultural pariahs. A Moro treated as an alien in one’s own country lives in a state of depersonalization.

Falling under scopic argumentation was the opinion espoused by retired Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza when he questioned the name “Bangsamoro.” Mendoza opined that positioning from a nation perspective invites the danger of the Bangsamoro seceding from the Philippine republic.

Current social thought has recognized the transformation of the concept of nation not just as a social polity but also as a representation of social life. Social thinkers have averred that “nation” is not simply the “ideological apparatus of state power.” It refers not just to the discourses of the cultural supremacy of the majority but also to the voices in its peripheries, of its minorities.


These are not just academic constructs. The Kapampangan believe they have a culture of their own that cannot be consigned to a status inferior to the dominant Tagalog culture. Indigenous peoples of the Cordillera speak the “lingua franca” Ilocano out of necessity; they have languages of their own. One’s position in the dominant national culture is a source of identity that gives it a distinct sense of “nation-ness.” Cebuano Visayans of a few years back, preferring to sing the national anthem in their own language, were only expressing their sense of identity inherent to their concept of their own Cebuano nation. These concepts of ethnonationalism are not perilous ideas. Here is where one appreciates the prospects of a Federalist Philippines that truly recognizes not only ethnolinguistic variety but also the modernist concept of self-determination. We often forget: Not everything that is Manila is representative of the entire country.

The jurist Mendoza also misses an important fact of recent history. In 2010, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front officially disavowed separatism as its ultimate goal. It was a pragmatic decision. Separatism drew no populist following in the Moro regions.


Many question whether the MILF is the true representative of the Moro people. In the 1988 elections, the MILF-affiliated Islamic Party of the Philippines fielded local candidates. Past elections consistently saw the battle lines drawn among aristocratic datus. But in 1988 a new political party that the datus had not organized challenged their traditional hold. The strong showing manifested the possibility of a Moro political counter-elite. That was a watershed event in the history of Moro Mindanao.

Scopic arguers are vastly unaware of these historical realities that explain why the Bangsamoro nation is a valid aspiration of the Moro people. It is not just the end of war. What needs to end fundamentally is the Manila-constructed political system that disenfranchised the large majority of the Moro population. The 2009 Maguindanao massacre was a symptom of that political ogre that Manila, beginning with the American colonial period, created for the Moro in the likeness of its own system of political patronage and oligarchy. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was never the correct prescription.

Amid the tensions of the times, any proper appreciation of the Moro problem must be referenced on history. We have done very little of that so far. Will the BBL be the exact opposite of the system of governance that Manila had dictated for Mindanao? That does not appear to be an absolute certainty. As importantly: Will the BBL unite the 13 Moro ethnolinguistic groups? I see some portions of the proposed BBL that seemingly would operate a Maguindanao hegemony over the rest of the Moro groups. That is not to mention the vague remedies for the non-Moro indigenous peoples. Finally, a BBL that is enacted out of political exigency will never work. History has taught us that. That is the real myopia.

What we need is ample time for open and free exchanges of opposing ideas anchored on human rights and respect for human dignity. Dissent must not be killed. Past regimes we criticized precisely because they stifled dissent and showed no respect for the dignity of the human person. We cried out tama na, sobra na.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

We must apply the same standard when we judge the proponents of differing views on the BBL. If one is against the BBL, it does not necessarily follow that one is anti-peace and anti-Moro. I use myself as an example.

TAGS: Bangsamoro Basic Law, Mindanao, nation, news

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.