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As I See It

Include all Mindanaoans in peace process

/ 12:08 AM April 08, 2015

There they go again. The trouble with the peace panels of both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is that they threaten Congress and the rest of the Filipinos with “a very, very bloody war” if the Bangsamoro Basic Law is not passed by Congress.

Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer, head of the government peace panel, did it again the other day. She told reporters that if the peace process fails, disillusioned members of the MILF may go the way of radical jihadist groups like the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East, Jemaah Islamiyah, or al-Qaida-type groups “that use different modes of organizations and violence.”

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“It is a real threat,” she said, “that kind of radicalization toward the [IS-like] groups. It is a religion-based ideology that would be more intractable, or more difficult and very, very bloody, if you go through the history of religious wars.”

Is she just following the example of President Aquino and the MILF peace panel? Last week, the President said failure to pass the BBL would result in “more body bags.” Earlier, chief MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal repeatedly threatened that it would be “back to war if the BBL is not passed.” And these are people who are supposed to be peace negotiators. They are not negotiating for peace; they are warmongering.

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Everybody wants peace, including those against the present draft of the BBL. But not peace at the end of the barrel of a gun. The peace negotiators are acting more like bullies or blackmailers, or the enforcers of crime syndicates threatening their victims with harm if they don’t pay up.

Succumbing to threats would be cowardice on the part of members of Congress who would be sacrificing the welfare of other Filipinos, including Mindanaoans who are not members of the MILF, in order to appease the MILF. That would be appeasement not unlike the peace treaty signed by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain with Hitler because Chamberlain was afraid of war with Germany. That treaty allowed Hitler to occupy Sudetenland, a territory apart from Germany but which was populated by German-speaking peoples.

Then Chamberlain went home to England proudly boasting, “Peace in our time.” Only, the treaty did not result in peace but in World War II, as Hitler thought Britain and its allies were afraid of a war with Germany.

Appeasement never results in lasting peace; it only makes the other party braver, thinking that he can get away with murder. It is like victims of blackmailers paying up, thinking that they would be left alone afterwards. Only, the blackmailer keeps coming back and asking for more and more and more.

It is the same thing with the peace accord. We should not pass the BBL just to appease the MILF. Congress should pass a BBL that is fair and just to all Mindanaoans, including Christians, lumad, Badjao, Tausug and other tribes that have been left out of the BBL. A survey of Mindanaoans showed that a majority of them are opposed to the BBL because they have been left out.

Mindanao is not populated by the MILF alone. In fact, the MILF is a minority there, even among the Muslim population. But the BBL will give the MILF power over all the Mindanaoans, even those opposed to it.

In fact, far from peace, the present draft of the BBL may result in what Professor Ferrer is afraid of: that other disillusioned groups may form more radical organizations that would continue the war, as the MILF has done after being disillusioned with the peace agreement that the Moro National Liberation Front of Nur Misuari had forged with the Philippine government. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is another disillusioned group that broke away from the MILF and continues to wage war against all comers. Another group had broken away from the BIFF and is waging its own war in Mindanao. How many more disillusioned splinter groups would be born after the passage of the BBL?

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The first sin, as I see it, was to allow the MILF to draft the BBL instead of Congress, which is the right body to do it. Naturally, the MILF made the provisions favorable to it instead of fair and just for all Mindanaoans, as well as other Filipinos.

Happily, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano is drafting two alternative bills to the BBL. One would make a stronger Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the other would create two, instead of only one, autonomous regions in Mindanao.

Cayetano said that after consultations with other stakeholders in Mindanao, it became clear that Mindanaoans want “peace, justice and development; inclusive peace and development; and involvement in the peace process.”

He added that many Mindanaoans “distrust” the MILF and its true intentions. He said Mindanao leaders want the alternative measure to address their concerns and ensure that radical groups would not be able to push their agenda. The MILF, after all, is not the only group representing Mindanao.

Instead of beating the war drums, let us wait for the alternative bills of Cayetano and other lawmakers.

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, BBL, MILF, Mindanao, Mindanaoans, Miriam Coronel Ferrer, peace, peace process
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