Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh!
International Peace Conference
From the Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers Conference that I attended last month, I have really learned much about Mindanao. I must admit, although I have lived in Mindanao for 19 years and counting, there are many things that I do not know about my homeland. One of which is the conflict between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Peacetech Country Manager Zabra Yu Siwa discussed about the history of Mindanao Conflict. There, we learned about the struggle that dates back to the Spanish Era where the Spanish colonies were not able to fully penetrate the whole island of Mindanao, but only a few places in it, this was due to the strong resistance of the Moro people and because governments that were solidly established during that time such as the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao.
History of Conflict
However, the modern conflict between the MILF and GPH dates back during the Marcos regime when this was crystallized by the famed “Jabidah Massacre”.
When the Philippines had disputes over its then-owned Sabah. There was a plan called “Operation Merdeka” that was being ironed out in order to reclaim that part of Malaysia. The Philippine government then recruited several Tausug and Sama muslims to be trained and will be the arm force of the government in the plan to retake Sabah. But when the Tausug and Sama muslims knew about the fact that they would be battling against their muslims brothers in Sabah, possibly their relatives, this started fueling their resistance. Later, when they were not given with their promised monthly allowance, this has brought the resistance to a higher level. For further reading see the story of Jibin Arula, the sole survivor and the story from Corregidor’s website.
The Jabidah Massacre, otherwise known as the Corregidor Massacre was the incident in which several members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines massacred a number of trainees, those who have resisted the training. This was the start, and the rest was history.
Rest of Mindanawan
Today, the conflict in Mindanao has claimed about 150,000-200,000 since its inception. There have been many displaced Muslim brothers and sisters because of this conflicts, and the most prevalent of all, is the deprivation of progress of Mindanao. Children not going to school, families remain poor, economy slowly progressing, and most importantly, fear engraved in the hearts of each Mindanawan.
Apparently, even the IPs (Indigenous People) and the Non-muslims residing in Mindanao are affected with this conflict. Not only those people residing near the center of the conflict but even us who live kilometers away from those places.
I have previously written about how Mindanao people like me have been struggling about it, and how we are affected by directly or indirectly with the conflict, see: “Typhoon of Bullets in Mindanao”
Today marks as a historic event of the Philippine Peace Process. For over 40 years in the planning, and making, the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has inked an agreement that would hopefully put an end to the conflict in Mindanao. This “Bangsamoro Framework Agreement” has been the solution of the government after the last agreement inked, the “Bangsamoro MOA-AD” has been deemed unconstitutional by the highest court of the Philippines, the Supreme Court.
Some of the provisions of the Bangsamoro Framework agreement provides:
- The MILF will no longer request for an independent state from the Philippine Government but instead, a semi-autonomous state, as Al Jazeera would put it.
- Bangsamoro entity will replace ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) which was deemed by President Aquino ineffective.
- Full implementation will be on 2016, while there will be a transition phase prior to it.
- Bangsamoro government will be in Ministerial Form.
- There shall be decommissioning of arms on the MILF’s end.
- The Central Government will have its reserved powers, while the Bangsamoro will have its exclusive or devolved powers.
- Geographical coverage of Bangsamoro will be determined by a plebiscite. Primarily involving the current areas under the ARMM region including the cities of Cotabato and Isabela, plus 6 municipalities of Lanao del Norte (Baloi, Munai, Pantar, Nunungan, Tagaloan, Tangkal) and the barangays of 6 municipalities of North Cotabato Province (Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap).
- Lastly, basic rights will be enjoyed by non-muslim residents in the Bangsamoro region.
Views and Thoughts
I believe that this is indeed a big bold step towards lasting peace in Mindanao. All of us in Mindanao have been waiting for this for such a long time. I cannot deny that even non-Muslims like me also want what we think is the best for our region, because if we would not tread in a peaceful path, we shall always be affected, and so will our children and grandchildren. With these, I would like to believe that this is indeed the start, and this is how we turn our backs from insurgencies, conflicts, misunderstandings.
As a young leader from Mindanao, I am always and have always been optimistic that the promise of our forefathers will come into realization, and that is, “Mindanao will really be the land of promise”. As a young leader who have seen first hand the effects of this long time conflict, I believe that the people can only take so much, and this agreement is indeed timely, and relevant.
However, I must admit, that this is just a beginning, and while we tread towards the path that we are planning to take, there may be some changes, or unforeseen circumstances therefore as one country, we should be steadfast in our aim, be deceived not, be tempted not to drive our from our aim- that is, everlasting peace.
Also, let us acknowledge the fact that this is not only the work of the Government or the MILF group, but we are also involved in this cause. The Government and MILF group shall only lead us and guide us with regards to the actions that we should do as citizens, but the guidance would be nothing if we don’t follow, and put our heart on it. And yes, Filipinos from Luzon and Visayas islands should involve their selves in the attainment of long lasting peace, because indeed, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
To the Philippine Government, MILF Panel, and the Malaysian Government, I commend you for this peace agreement. If all goes well as planned, surely, even our children and grandchildren will be indebted to this Bangsamoro Framework agreement.