PRIVILEGE SPEECH: Muslim problem a Filipino problem. By Rep. Pangalian M. Balindong

Mr. Speaker, it may be recalled that we have been fighting each other for the past 500 years or so. We started waging defensive war when Magellan set foot on Mactan. But now the desire to fight remains only among the Mujahideen fighters. It is not so among us whose economic and educational growth has been stunted by decades of intermittent war.
      
The Muslim problem, I must venture to say, is Filipino problem. Because this problem adversely affects the entire Filipino nation. So since it is our common problem, why couldn’t we focus on its final solution? Why do we pay it lip service only? Why do we introduce palliative solutions only while we can totally lick the problem?
      
You will agree with me, my dear colleagues, that the solutions being presented and offered by the series of past administrations, so far, are mere palliatives – a temporary cure designed to be effective only during a certain administration but the same ailment recurring just as soon as the next.
      
Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues, why can’t we in Congress introduce a stable and permanent solution now that we are in a position to do so? The Moro is a patriot who is fighting in defense of homeland until now. When the Spaniards sold the country for 20,000 Dollars to the Americans the Moro leaders in Lanao, Cotabato and Sulu refused to be part of the Philippines. That’s how patriotic we were at that time.
      
We have been fighting since the transfer of sovereignty to the Americans because the Holy Qur’an says that “THE CONDITION OF A PEOPLE WILL NEVER CHANGE UNLESS THEY THEMSELVES CHANGE IT.” We are supposed to change our condition. But the Philippine government should allow us to manage the fire as well as the oven of change. The people initiating the change must be fully equipped and must not be dependent upon someone else.
      
The first invasion of Marawi in mid-1500’s by the Spaniards failed. It took them another 250 years later to launch another invasion, which also failed.
      
After these intervening events, I urge all parties (the GRP and the MILF) to go back to the table and talk peace once and for all. Whatever it is that GRP is willing to give whether autonomy or federalism, it must be stable and permanent. It must also be meaningful and able to achieve change and, finally peace. It must be sincere so that there would be no need to go back every now and then to the negotiating table. We will no longer have reason to fight each other again.

Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues, if some sector of society stands in the way of peace and progress, something must be done to make them toe the line. Being at odds with one another is not contributing to progress despite the claim of economic gains brought about by the appreciation of the Peso.

Before my stint in government, I had the opportunity to travel to Libya, now the Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah, with my friend former Governor Zacaria Candao of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, in search for peace. Through the auspices of Libyan strongman Muamar Kadafy peace was negotiated with the MNLF in the mid 70’s.
      
Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues, now in my 60’s I have come full circle. My friend Zac Candao became Regional Governor while I became Congressman. Whereas, decades ago I was searching for peace, now I am part of the group that facilitates the grant of peace. I ask my colleagues therefore to think deeper and look for new ways to grant what our Muslim brothers need.
      
East Timor, a tiny part of Indonesia, has been granted independence lately to allow its people to pursue their aspirations. Why can’t we in the Philippines? Dear colleagues, help me think deeper and come up with something new in the interest of peace and progress.
      
It is being alleged that the absence of unity among Filipino Muslim leaders is the culprit of all these. But unity must not be dictated. The unity needed must come from the Moro, and not dictated by somebody else but by the events of the day.
      
The Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao came into effect in 1988. The Regional Consultative Commission that helped draft the Autonomy Act recommended enough funds for the development of the Autonomous Region. But it has never been implemented because of the refusal of Manila. The Regional Legislative Assembly of which I was Speaker, enacted a law creating a Regional Police Force for the Autonomous Government pursuant to the Constitution but remains a dead letter law up to now.
     
Let us therefore go back to the negotiating table in the hope that we can come up with something new, something sincere, stable and permanent, something that can neither easily be worked upon by the temper of the times nor rise and fall with the tide of events.
     
Personally I hate to see a repeat of the Camp Abubakar bombing and the perpetration of acts abominable to Muslims. And I hate to see the likes of Commander Bravo wielding their swords against Christian Filipino brothers.  (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews)

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