GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 28 March) — Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan from June 7, 1933 when it was founded as a first year high school until March 22, 1958 when it became a university, Xavier University) just revealed a contradiction at the core of our search for peaceful solution to the centuries old Moro Problem in Mindanao. The Moros are misunderstood and feared among the enlightened next to their backyard.
Last Thursday, March 26, it awarded the Father William Masterson Award to the two heads of the panels that negotiated the peaceful solution to the Moro Problem – Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer for the Government and Mohager Iqbal for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – during the university commencement exzercises. It also conferred the Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa, on Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
To Ferrer and Iqbal, University President Fr. Roberto Yap, S.J. paid the tribute, “They were pilloried, maligned and even kicked in the social media networks and other forums but these two persons continued their work for peace.” All the three, he praised, “Three peace negotiators. Three peace workers. They endeavored to walk the path of peace. Daghang salamat.”
Yap said they should be considered as champions of peace and that the university shall stand beside them in their quest for peace and avowed, “Xavier will stand for peace and starting today we proudly call these three as fellow Ateneans.”
The awards, the citations and tributes referred to the contentious peace negotiation that culminated in the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in March 2014 – the compendium of all significant agreements since 1997. These have been drafted into the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill now pending in the Congress. It became most controversial with Deles, Ferrer and Iqbal vilified after the Mamapasano debacle.
The awarding was most laudable. But as MindaNews wrote, it “drew a firestorm” – not from the outside but from the university community, “the university alumni who opposed the idea in the aftermath of the Mamasapano clash…”.
MindaNews continued: “In meetings with university officials, several alumni also aired their fears that because of the presence of Iqbal, armed MILF fighters will be present during the commencement exercise in the school. … None of these fears materialized.”
What is the revelation?
The opposition from Xavier University alumni was unexpected. They are enlightened. Misamis Oriental, of which Cagayan de Oro City is the capital, borders the Lanao Provinces. Among the people of Mindanao, the Xavier University alumni must be counted as among those enlightened about the Moro Problem. But by the MindaNews report, they sounded “anti-Moro”.
Deles, Ferrer and Iqbal are more than “champions of peace”. They are apostles of peace! Together with other apostles of peace blazing the trail for the peaceful solution of the Moro Problem, they are met with deep-seated hostilities in the Congress which, as a representative political body, represents the anti-Moro biases and prejudices in Luzon, the Visayas and Christian-Mindanao enhanced by suspicions and misunderstanding.
The “fears” the Xavier University alumni manifested, as reported, is evidence of how the Mamasapano incident has stoked and deepened their anti-Moro biases and prejudices. Can the same be said of other highly educated Christian Filipinos in Mindanao?
What is the truth?
None of their fears happened. They were unfounded fears. So are their biases and prejudices. Can the same be said of the fears, biases and prejudices of the other anti-Moros among the Christians?
The same must be said of the fears, biases and prejudices of the anti-Moros among the members of the Congress. Ironically, they trumpet loud that they will pass their version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to bring lasting peace to Muslim Mindanao; yet, they are the slayers of this peace.
Standing in the way of genuine peace in Muslim Mindanao is the misunderstanding of the Moros by Christian-Filipinos and the Congress — fanned by their anti-Moro biases and prejudices and their fears and suspicion of the Moro aspiration to be truly autonomous.
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at [email protected].]