WORM’S EYEVIEW: What We Really Want From the Bangsamoro Agreement

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/06 May) — The greatest any Filipino or Mindanaon can expect from the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro is genuine peace, the goodwill it fosters for a multicultural society, and the emergence of a model of good governance and civilized living. By this I mean four things:

One, it is essential to have not just a ceasefire but actual avoidance and abandonment of violence in resolving conflicts, problems, or disagreements.

Two, all arms and ammunition must be effectively decommissioned. No deadly weapons in the hands of non-police and non-defense personnel. Only agents of the law may carry firearms. A relentless drive must be in place to disarm and arrest violators and neutralize the incorrigible.

Three, there must be an iron-fisted prohibition of gun owning by civilians and unauthorized persons, with heavy penalties for violations thereof. In this regard, law enforcers must be firm and uncompromising, backed by decisive contingents of police and armed forces personnel. Any police or armed forces personnel committing a violation like gunrunning or selling must be promptly and heavily punished.

Four, the Lupong Tagapayapa should be revitalized and invigorated in all communities to ensure effective functioning of the judicial system on all levels. In this connection, there should be a review by every Barangay Assembly of the composition of their Lupon to ensure that they consist only of citizens with unquestioned integrity, probity, intelligence, and experience. This will reassure everyone that rido is unnecessary to resolve grievances and move them to abandon this medieval, barbaric practice.

Implementing all of these measures will create immediate and decisive impact on the demeanor and conduct of people and put a new face on the Muslim-dominated region.

The MILF and its allies and sympathizers have a huge job to do to convince the rest of our people, especially non-Moro Mindanaons, that they are indeed abandoning violence and armed rebellion in pursuing their political and other aims.

Their task is made more burdensome by the need to salve the hurts and resentments engendered by their violent struggle. But doing so will set them apart from groups like the Abu Sayyaf (with whom they are trying to dissociate) as well as lost commands and breakaway forces like the BIFF.

We are in Southeast Asia where consensus is the historic means of resolving personal or collective issues. All we need are strong and effective mechanisms for letting consensus emerge, solving problems without destruction to property, without disruption to living arrangements, and without loss of lives.

We are a peaceable people; it must be reflected in our societal arrangements. To do so is to restore broken harmony and cooperation. It is also to attain progress and genuine development.

Not least, we remove the trauma caused by violence, relax the anxiety borne of paranoia, and loosen the knotted stresses caused by long years of fear and worry. Let’s make these the immediate dividends from investing in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

For their unqualified success, the MILF and their allies should now focus on reassuring gestures and confidence-building measures that erase doubts about their motives and calm the fears of unbelievers.

One simple task the Bangsamoro can undertake now, immediately, long before the basic law kicks into place, is maintaining a neat and orderly appearance in their respective communities.

This will project a more civilized image compared to that of other areas, It would be a victory of sorts, winning against ugliness and disorder. The impact would be fantastic, as it will disabuse the exaggerated image of Moros as uncouth with crude manners and dirty habits.

Fair or not, spitting on the wall even inside the house, or spitting between the slatted crevices of their bamboo floors, are an abiding image of Moro behavior.

Biased view or not, they are not seen as neat, orderly, or sanitary in their habits. This despite being known to wash before entering their mosque to pray five times every day.

As fair or unfair these images may be, an overnight change will immediately impact on how the rest of the nation views them. It will also have a terrific effect on how the people’s expectations of their new role will be: a modern, civilizing role.

Of one thing they are already rightly proud today, and that is the elegance of their fashions, arts, cultural traditions, and practices. But it is neutralized or sullied by the fact that some of the worst arrangements in living standards in our society are found in their areas, as are some of the most disorderly and unruly characters.

The point is, projecting a fastidious image now will immediately telegraph change, positive change. Such change will foreshadow the transformation they claim to want in fighting for autonomy and control of their region.

Such a change would also have a shattering and dramatic effect: Bangsamoro awakening and on the verge of blooming and booming for all to see—a spectacle for all the world to witness, to behold, and to be inspired by!

It will immediately set up their barangays as models for community living in the eyes of the nation. And it will drive home the point about wanting genuine peace and development. It will certainly boost their image and credibility.

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