CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/24 April) — In a way, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) can thank the weakness of our democracy for the concessions it won from negotiating with the central government.
It should also thank Nur Misuari and the MNLF faithful for paving the way to their success. No one can dispute the fact that it was MNLF that showed how rebellion and the threat of secession by a small, cohesive, and determined group can overpower a large entity with weak political will and tenuous popular support.
To be candid about it: the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is a by-product of fierce confrontation between two determined oligarchies: Imperial Manila and the MILF.
It wouldn’t have happened within a truly democratic and inclusive system; at the least, it would have played out differently, less fraught with bloodshed and controversy, less dependent on foreign facilitation.
Because of Manila’s persistent failure to institutionalize the processes of democracy effectively throughout, we in the peripheries of central power have to make do with a poor semblance of a democratic republic.
What can sovereign citizens expect from an oligarchy dominated by greedy political dynasties bent on apportioning territory, wealth, and patrimony to themselves? Well, they could hope that somehow there will arise a leader and a party vested with a redeeming sense of statesmanship, fairness, and social justice.
But, no, there’s no limit to the aggrandizing-controlling-opportunistic urge at whatever cost. So it’s no surprise that those in charge, in their frustration about the intractability of Mindanao and the control of Mindanaons that elude them, they simply reach out to those they can buy, coerce, intimidate, or otherwise manipulate and get them to go along with a deal. A classic application of the “if-you-can’t-beat-them, join-them strategy.”
In this case, Imperial Manila simply pandered to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a fiercely tenacious armed movement, and accommodated it even at the expense of losing trust and political capital. Is there any doubt that repudiating the “Final Agreement” with the original group, the MNLF, has been costly in terms of trust and confidence?
How a sovereign state can treat a solemn covenant with its people so lightly—even if in its estimation the other signatory is already a spent force—is a puzzlement to many.
Throughout these MILF-driven negotiations, peaceable and unarmed Mindanaons, including most of the so-called Bangsamoro, had no real voice, nor were they consulted. Neither were the people of Luzon or Visayas consulted on a matter of the highest delicacy and importance to the republic, of which they are an integral part.
It can’t be helped therefore that cynicism should linger even after the agreement has been signed and made ready for execution in Congress. It wasn’t, isn’t, based on or backed by, a real consensus. It was basically a manipulated process, each side alternating by turns.
People should stop wondering why Mindanao remains the most volatile, most unstable, and most feared region. It’s unpredictable! And it’s too scarred by manipulation, artifice, deception. Plus its coasts are so porous, they play into the hands of hegemony-seeking terror cells with mayhem in mind, as well as assorted intruders, smugglers, adventurists, and crime lords.
What really ails Mindanao is its continuing status as a de facto colony of the central government. It will remain so until its peoples are truly empowered and the institutions and processes of democracy are rendered operative.
The situation will persist until the central government wakes up and compensates for its shortcomings and exploitative attitude towards this island region. Why not provide commensurate, equitable, and just share of attention and resources to Mindanao—as an equal partner of Luzon and Visayas and not as their milking cow?
Anyone who pooh-poohs this idea should explain why the region remains at the bottom of the development scale, miserably lagging in education, health, nutrition, budgetary inputs, what-have-you.
About the only generous consideration the region receives from the central government comes from the armed forces—which never fail to assign their largest deployment of warm bodies and killing machines to Mindanao.
The tragedy in this is, no one bothers to discern the ironic implications of this logistical generosity to the island region. To them it’s just a personnel-and-ordnance statistic exigent to their view of Mindanao: a battleground and a proving arena for ambitious military upstarts.
For the longest time already, what favorable consideration Mindanao gets is done mostly for the wrong reasons.
Do people notice that it’s not the natives but their spoilers who get the most benefits from all this: the warlords, gun dealers, foreign backers, carpetbaggers, opportunists, Manila-backed trapos, and the political zombies that follow them blindly.
Manny among others is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at development academy of Philippines, member of the Permanent Mission to the United Nations, vice chair of Local Government Academy, member of the Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. [email protected]