WORM’S EYEVIEW: Will there be democracy in the Bangsamoro entity? Our nominal democracy

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/07 Jan.) — Very soon, we’re made to believe, the formal adoption of the proposed framework agreement on the Bangsamoro entity will take place. It will be signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the group that successfully leveraged armed struggle and violence to gain recognition.

If the signing pushes through, it will be quite an achievement, rightfully claimed by the MILF although it was not the original proponent of the idea.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was the original but it was sidelined when the government unceremoniously decided to disregard its earlier agreement with it and pronounced the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) a failed experiment.

Meanwhile, MNLF chairman Nur Misuari has become a fugitive hunted for his role in the assault on Zamboanga last September 2013.

It was Nur’s group that coined the term Bangsamoro during the latter part of the 1960s, or just after the bizarre incident instigated by President Marcos during which a contingent of Muslim volunteers were mowed down by gunfire on Corregidor Island to prevent them from escaping.

The “Jabidah Massacre” of 1968 triggered the MNLF’s secessionist movement, which used the term “Bangsamoro” to refer to the mainly Muslim peoples found in central and western Mindanao.

The introduction of “Bangsamoro” into our vocabulary is an achievement, but one that still needs elaboration to avoid its loose and reckless usage by various groups.

Let’s face it: we are a nation of mostly nominal Christians and nominal Muslims. So it is understandable that we also have a nominal democracy, democracy in name only but not in reality.

In reality, the pollsters tell us that our society is ruled by just about 100 families that have established political dynasties.

Consider our behavior. We celebrate independence but belittle our sovereignty, which we do not assert except under extreme conditions. Remember how we went along with Martial Law for 14 years before we got fed up and shrugged off the dictator in 1986 at Edsa?

We advocate autonomy but fail to manage our local economy or govern our own barangay, allowing it to be headed by ambitious but incompetent wannabes.

We make noises about federalism but fail to exercise even the most elementary tasks of self-governance, letting our municipalities, cities, or provinces be controlled by autocrats and dynasty-builders.

Other times, we make a fuss about wanting good government but elect or allow to be elected demagogues, charlatans, or clowns with little or nothing to qualify them for the job.

When they’re in office, we do nothing to make them perform as they promise or as public servants should. Thus, although everyone says that such people shouldn’t be entrusted with public responsibility, they get elected anyway.

Undeserved Respectability

Worse, the so-called respectable citizens of our community not only tolerate them but play ball with them, fraternizing and carousing with them, playing or posing or dancing with them, serving as ninong or ninang for their children, or joint-venturing in business with them.

That’s how trapos gain social respectability from Mr. Civic Leader or Mrs. Concerned Citizen—an honor they don’t deserve but which gets them elected to office time and again.

That’s also how trapos are able to establish never-ending dynasties that corner the power and the wealth of the community for themselves.

And that’s why the truly talented and exemplary are sidelined. They are crowded out of the political system by hypocritical and mediocre leaders!

Then when the inevitable abuses take place—election manipulation, financial mishandling, graft and corruption and nepotism, outright thievery—Mr. Civic Leader or Mrs. Concerned Citizen blames the system.

Who’s to Blame?

But bad governance cannot be blithely blamed on the system. The system is not self-operating. The blame properly belongs to those who operate and manipulate the system, along with those who make it possible for them to do so.

Trapos cannot dominate politics or elections unless they are supported by citizens—in particular citizens who support candidates in hopes of profiting from the connection later on.

These ill-motivated citizens make it possible for corrupt politicos to take advantage of the community and society at large, exploiting the ignorant or buying the votes of the corrupt.

As long as we allow these vested interests to operate with impunity in our own community, in our own barangay, our country shall always be only a nominal democracy. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa writes from Cagayan de Oro and is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at valdehuesa@gmail.com.)