PEACETALK: The biggest obstacle to peace is anti-Moro sentiment

(Closing statement of H. Marcos C. Mordeno, chair of MindaNews, at the Media Roundtable Discussion on the Bangsamoro Basic Law at the Pearlmont Hotel, Cagayan de Oro City, 21 February 2015)

We may have different views of and attitudes toward the peace process in general and the Bangsamoro Basic Law in particular. Let’s accept the fact that not all of us are in favor of the BBL. Some are opposing it simply because they have deep-seated biases against the Moro as a people. Some are opposing it because they believe it violates certain provisions in the Constitution. Others have reservations if the law will indeed bring about lasting peace in Mindanao.

I don’t mind how you view the BBL. That is your right. I too have some questions about specific provisions of the proposed law. But I am convinced that we should give it a chance. For we might not have another chance for a peaceful resolution to this decades-old conflict that has claimed 120,000 lives, half of them civilians, although the BBL is just one of the requisites for peace.

Surely, if somebody asks you now if you want another war, your answer will be a big “No”. But the opposite appears to be the prevailing sentiment among many if you’re following the news and if you’re reading the posts on Facebook. And many of those calling for blood have neither experienced war nor witnessed its brutality.

Media itself, especially Manila media, is contributing to the confusion and bigotry. Consider: reporters and news anchors in Manila hardly, if ever, mentioned the fact that aside from the 44 Special Action Force commandos, 18 MILF fighters and four or five civilians were also killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. This begs the question: Had the MILF sustained more casualties than the SAF, would the public reaction be the same? Judging by how media has treated the incident, which it insisted was a massacre even if both sides were armed to the teeth, we know what the answer is.

The point I’m trying to deliver is that the biggest obstacle is not the technical and legal issues surrounding the BBL. the biggest obstacle is the anti-Moro sentiment that many of us still harbor in our hearts and minds. From the cyberspace to the halls of Congress, at no time has this sentiment been more pronounced. Read the news reports, read the posts on Facebook. Listen to my favorite Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who likes to flaunt his ignorance of history as the truth we should adhere to.

Now the question: Should we allow the peace process to be held hostage by the outrage over the Mamasapano encounter? Do we judge the sincerity of the MLF based on an incident that produced tragic results mainly because if inept planning and inept execution? Or do we judge their sincerity on the 17 years of negotiation?

I have more questions in mind. But let this suffice for now. In closing, allow me to share a word of wisdom from Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese sage of war: No country has benefited from prolonged warfare.

Thank you very much.