MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/20 March) – In a statement Wednesday, lawyer Jess Dureza, a former chair of the government peace panel in talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), offered a plausible scenario: the MILF may get a peace agreement with government but will likely lose in the elections for the Bangsamoro entity. He warned that given its inexperience in political exercises, the MILF is not assured of victory at the polls.
He did not say it, but I’d venture that the former secretary was not simply concerned that the MILF might lose in the elections. He was probably weighing the scenarios that could develop if Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim’s group fails to win the vote. Indeed, the irony of the MILF being shunted out of post-peace agreement Bangsamoro governance could not be overemphasized. How would the group that for decades struggled for Moro self-rule react to being denied the leading role once such political setup is in place?
It might help to pose this question: Should it always be the case that the vanguard of a social or revolutionary movement – in this case the MILF – consolidate and appropriate political power for itself at least during the initial stage of the development of the polity or society it is fighting for?
This is a non-issue for revolutionary movements that aim to wrest power mainly through armed struggle, and which regard seizure of state power as simply a means to realize its overall agenda. In most instances – as happened in the former Soviet Union and China – such movements consider consolidation of state power a requisite to advancing [their] vision of society. Along the way, democracy assumes new meanings depending on how its advocates want the revolutionary task to proceed. The MILF may also wish to define democracy on its own terms and make its definition the beacon towards justice and equity in the Bangsamoro homeland.
Unlike the earlier revolutionary movements, however, the Bangsamoro quest for self-determination has opted for a political settlement instead of continuing the war to its bitter end. The shift in strategy began in 1976 when Moro National Liberation Front founding chair Nur Misuari signed the Tripoli Agreement, a move that led the late Hashim Salamat to leave the MNLF and form the MILF to carry on the struggle for secession.
Two decades after the split, Salamat’s group ventured into peace talks with government and subsequently dropped the bid for secession. It would take 17 years for the talks to reach a conclusion, although there’s a great possibility questions would be raised on the constitutionality of the Comprehensive Agreement scheduled for signing on March 27.
With the agreement (and perhaps the Bangsamoro Basic Law) considered a done deal, the MILF faces the task of at least obtaining a majority of positions up for grabs in the 2016 polls for the new political entity. Only by getting a majority can it ensure a continuity of its own vision of a just Moro society. But will its mass base be relied upon to deliver the vote come election day?
Indeed, the election will reveal the maturity of the MILF in parliamentary exercises and the degree of its rootedness among the Moro populace. Will its influence be strong enough vis-à-vis the schemes of experienced politicians? And how will the MILF and its supporters react in case they lose and are forced to watch at the sidelines in what could be a classic example of “si Juan ang nagsaing, si Pedro ang kumain” situation?
Yet no matter how the vote shapes up two years from now the MILF is obliged to adhere to the outcome. Its leaders knew that by entering into an agreement with government they were making a political gamble for the sake of peace. Taken at its face value, the agreement is a most welcome resolution to the decades-old armed conflict that has killed, maimed, and displaced thousands and ruined Christian-Muslim relations in Mindanao.
Nonetheless, like a roadmap the agreement and the Bangsamoro Basic Law can only define directions and destinations. Nobody knows what [will] happen during the actual journey. Let’s see until the last vote is counted. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)