THE SEPARATIST: Bizarre Logic and Old Accounts

KYOTO. Japan (MindaNews/15 August) — The latest event in Maguindanao does not bode well for the MILF. Four of its own members were killed and seven others injured in the clash between forces loyal to Commanders Adzmie and Abunawas of the movement’s 106th and 104th Base Commands, respectively.

The clash displaced 3,500 families and forced the military to bomb the area to prevent the conflict from spreading (The silence of the human rights groups are quite deafening when compared to how they would cry in anguish when people are internally-displaced by AFP operations).

And what was the MILF’s response? Its chief negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, protested the AFP’s intervention, arguing, “Even if our men were fighting each other, it does not justify the military’s involvement.”

Here you already have 3,500 families (say a total of 14,000 individuals, assuming a family of four) running away from this war among comrades, and Iqbal does not want the AFP to intervene because the conflict was an “internal matter”? What kind of reasoning is that?

Two things become explicitly clear as a result of this incident. The first pertains to the question of just how much respect do MILF lower ranks have for the chain of command? Or put another way, to what extent does Iqbal et. al., really control what is happening among the MILF rank-and-file?

It seems very tenuous, for we have already seen this before, when Umbra Kato and his colleagues suddenly went on a killing rampage in Lanao del Norte. If the MILF cannot police its ranks then we are faced with a far much deeper dilemma that can be posed as two additional queries. First, how then does the MILF organize itself if its command appears weak in certain areas? And second, what would such authority look like in the event that the MILF is given a chance to implement its so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity? Well, if it cannot even police its ranks, what more governing a more fluid, more fractious, more complex multi-ethnic juridical entity?

If the MILF wants a broader group of people to support its argument for a full autonomy, it must not simply attract them by the force of its arms. It also must show that it has the capacity to govern and unite. The incident mentioned above somehow is no comfort to those of us who often sympathize with its cause.

History does change people. I was poring over old newspaper items about the pre-martial law surge in violence in then Cotabato province. I read an account about a symposium in Marawi City where a group of local and foreign Moro leaders passed a resolution asking then Congressman Salipada Pendatun to run for the Senate “to represent Mindanao and the Muslims in particular.”

But the author of the resolution, one Michael Mastura also cautioned “such representation is useless with the massive military operations being waged in Mindanao against the Muslims.” He added: “Pendatun’s candidacy is a manifestation of and to further national unity (sic) of the diverse elements of our society, but with the recent turmoil in the Muslim areas, such objective of national unity cannot be achieved.”

Mastura concluded: “History proves that national unity in so far as the Filipino Muslims are concerned, cannot be achieved through the use of military forces.” (italics mine)

There is a slight variation in the eminent Moro historian’s position now: national unity is really not worth aspiring for. And the use of military power – well, it can work both ways now. (Source: Tesoro De Guzman, “Cotabato assault by AFP held back,” Daily Mirror, August 10,
(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Patricio N. Abinales of Ozamiz City is Professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies in Kyoto University)