PIGCAWAYAN, North Cotabato (MindaNews/29 July) – Tired of war and running for dear life whenever fighting occurred, many Moros are asking both the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front to continue talking despite the uncertainties hounding the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.
For Hadj Nor Unsang, talking rather than fighting remains the most acceptable solution.
Now in his late 60s, Unsang, an Imam (Islamic priest) in a mountainous village of Patot, going into another armed confrontation over the unresolved issues would only waste the gains of peace.
Besides, he said, civilians like them are already tired of running for their lives whenever war erupts.
For Ebrahim Macaumbao, a village official, the MILF could not be blamed if they would “react violently” to the alterations in the BBL.
Rumors went around that some MILF members were enraged with the reported changes made by Malacañang in some “key points” in the BBL.
“It’s just like a kid crying out loud because he wanted to have a candy. Now if you don’t give him what he wants, he will never stop crying,” Macaumbao added.
But Unsang, speaking in a soft voice, said: “Hindi mabibigo yan” (That wouldn’t fail), referring to the BBL. He said he no longer favors resorting to violence just to attain what the MILF wants for the Bangsamoro people.
Hopeful but worried
In Pikit, 41-year-old Dido Kadatuan said she remained hopeful the obstacle in the crafting of the BBL could be hurdled.
However, Kadatuan admitted she was worried that armed conflict may erupt again.
“The reason why we did not return to Barangay Rajamuda was because we are still wary that war could still erupt should negotiations collapse,” said the mother of two who is now living in the town proper.
Kadatuan and her family fled Rajamuda in 2003 and had never returned home. She said that while they were living there the children’s schooling was interrupted every now and then, if not by war between the government and MILF, by rido or clan conflict.
Fatima Tarusan, a barangay health worker, urged the government to respect what has been written in the BBL, saying that the law is based on the teachings of Quran.
“I hope the government will not eliminate or insert some provisions in the BBL. Instead, respect it. Adhere to the previous agreements in the past to avoid any violence,” said Tarusan.
Like Tarusan, Unsang appealed to the government to retain whatever has been submitted because it may delay the realization of the Bangsamoro government.
On Monday, government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said that both peace panels are finding good solutions to the sticky issues surrounding the draft BBL.
“We met over the weekend and made progress on two important articles pertaining to fiscal autonomy and the structure of the Bangsamoro government,” Coronel-Ferrer said in a statement sent to media.
Earlier, the MILF posted on its website that it will never renegotiate the settled issues, saying, “All those issues that are settled in the FAB and its Annexes will not be subject for renegotiation; and settled language in the FAB and its Annexes will not be subject for renegotiation.”
It added: “If both Parties only abide by these commitments, the process would really move forward faster and save them from some irritating moments in their current engagement. More importantly, the MILF will never renegotiate these settled issues.”
For the villagers in Patot, most of whom had experienced displacement in the previous wars, they couldn’t understand why is it hard for the government to grant their demand.
“We only want to take back what originally belongs to us. Why can’t the government give us a chance to govern our own people?” Unsang pointed out in front of his fellow villagers.
Tarusan said the government must honor what it had signed with the MILF. “Sino ba ang may gusto ng gulo? Nakakapagod na, kung saan-saan lang kami nakakarating sa pagbabakwit.”
Patot used to be one of the “backdoors” of the former MILF headquarters Camp Abubakar Assidique, which was captured by government troops during the all-out war in 2000.
The barangay lies near the boundary of this town and Buldon in Maguindanao.