WORM’S EYEVIEW: More hard questions

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/08 February) — I like the Bangsamoro concept and commend those who conceptualized it, including Nur who envisioned it back in the 1960s.

Still, I worry … as one would about plunging into a partnership half-heartedly or, worse, forging it merely to accommodate present convenience.

Such worry clouds the long-term view and inhibits the growth of whatever good faith there is. So the issue begs the question.


Bottom line here is trust and confidence. Has mutual trust and confidence developed sufficiently during the two decades it took for the two parties to reach this point?

What are the chances that CAB will turn sour soon or later? Has a potential-problem-analysis been done—with results that give us reasonable cause for optimism? Or is there need for more confidence-building efforts, gestures, measures?

A potentially troublesome aspect is the concept of an “asymmetrical” set up, which the government has accepted in principle but which remains vague to a lot of people.

Vaguer still is what mechanism may be there to address contentious problems that arise from, say, an overzealous interpretation of “autonomy” on one side or abuse of authority on the other.

We cannot discount atavism or reversion to earlier behavior to reemerge, nor can we deny that the urge to secede still lurks in murky corners of Mindanao. On the other hand, impetuous, imperious Manila can be headstrong and ill-advised.

Today there are still too many who are uncomfortable, in Mindanao as well as elsewhere. Too many can’t even define their discomfort. And too many don’t think to ask.

There are also those who in their discomfiture or feeling of being marginalized ask—testily, irritably: what do you take us for, granted?

It’s very important to be comfortable, to get along with one another, to avoid a situation where one says “I don’t trust you but I’ll pretend that I do so you won’t get offended.” That’s not trust. Unease builds no confidence, nor promote peace.

Good Faith

To pretend you trust but say the opposite behind their back isn’t good enough, either.

How about the arms stockpile by the MILF and the intolerable number of loose firearms among supposed non-combatants. These are not conducive to peace of mind.

Is there, will there be, an earnest drive to address both?

There ought to be no fear that the agreement our government is about to sign might be the product of miscalculation and less than candor. Our acceptance of this historic agreement must be based on nothing less than good faith and trust in each other’s motives.

Are we reasonably assured that in the foreseeable future nothing will drive matters into regret and reversal or worse? We must march confidently forward, without hesitation, and resolutely forge ahead.

In this context what comes to mind is the Cold-War term used by U.S. Pres. Ronald Reagan in dealing with the erstwhile Soviet Union: Trust but verify!


Let’s be candid, realistic. The years of conflict that preceded these negotiations weren’t what you’d call a “Cold War” but more like a mini “Hot-and-Cold War” punctuated by Pres. Erap Estrada’s reckless declaration and launching of “All-Out War.”

Erap scuttled the peace process. In so doing, he caused the secessionist struggle to reignite. Guerilla warfare and stockpiling of arms and munitions took place in earnest and boosted MILF arsenals.

It’s a good thing the government returned to the negotiating table. But the build-up of confidence was slow and painful as a sort of cat-and-mouse game ensued beneath the shadow of the tenuous “Final Peace Agreement” with the MNLF—which proved to be anything but final.

It struck many Mindanaons then that instead of confidence-building, what was taking place was a “confidence game” with elements of charade, notably during times when it was unclear if the MILF was fueling the Abu Sayyaf or merely encouraging foreign assistance to it in order to destabilize Mindanao and distract the national government.

Answers Please

What is our assurance that CAB is not a con game for either side?

Someone should answer this and related questions so we can lay the doubts to rest. Gaining someone’s trust in order to obtain something of value—then betraying him—is an all too familiar strategy.

Finally, I have yet to hear of the MILF issuing a Fatwa or decree against barbarism like beheadings, kidnapping, or drafting children for battle. Or maybe it wasn’t loud or clear enough. How about issuing it now that the BIFF is on the rampage?

Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at development academy of Philippines, vice chair of Local Government Academy, member of the Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. [email protected]