CRUCIBLE: BOL and Self-determination (1)

(An expanded lecture that was delivered extemporaneously during the forum:“Self-determination at Last? Bangsamoro Organic Law – Limits, Challenges, and Possibilities” held at the Center for Integrative Development Studies, University of the Philippines Diliman, on 21 February 2019).

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews / 24 February) – Self-determination, a subject close to many hearts among conscious Moro youth and professionals, has elicited many questions. The most crucial, I believe, are these two: what drives the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to barter its revolutionary struggle with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) through transition process, decommissioning, and normalization? Would it advance or stifle the Moro quest for self-determination?

Admittedly, who can best answer these questions should be core leaders of the MILF as they are the ones who started their version of Moro struggle; they were the ones who experienced the crucible of wars and eventually realized the need to forge peace deals with the Philippine government. We’d long expressed our respect with their decision. Certainly, the reading of those who’d once embraced jihad is different from those who had not.

People’s Views

Yet, people’s views including their questions on Moro struggle should not be dismissed as irrelevant or critical. Now that MILF’s “paradigm shift” has been finally realized, people deserve clarity and guidance amid twists and zigzags of its revolutionary steps with which the previously ascribed Moro struggle for freedom and independence was originally lunched on their behalf. Now with BOL, people are invoked anew with recycled rhetoric of “peace and development.” People deserve answers as they are often the ones who perpetually suffer from pangs of war while their leaders could usually transition to new life and move on just like that.

Some Moro youth, with many cases in the past, were forced to embrace radicalism due to failure to get enlightenment from their elders after they were indoctrinated with what was previously conceived as a cause of sacred struggle that eventually resulted into shifts from integration to secession now back to integration and other “political experiments” in between.

My contribution in this forum would be a reading using what I call “strategic analysis” on current state of Moro struggle. More particularly, it underscores the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the extent to which it resonates with the cause of Moro struggle and the vision of self-determination.

Major documents of the United Nations show that the concept of self-determination has undergone much development from the mandate of U.N. Charter that recognizes the rights of self-determination among nations and peoples. In fact, the U.N. Special Committee on Self-determination came up with declaration on decolonization in the 1960s until quite recently with the project “Third International Decade in the Eradication of Colonialism.” This principle has, in many ways, inspired many minorities worldwide as their movements invariably tried to advance their struggle to new levels.

This development is not exceptional with Moros. Previously, Moro struggle was simply anchored in history driven with the imperative to resist aggression since colonial and post-colonial period. There was no clear direction until the formation of Moro movements like Moro National Liberation Front, and later, MILF as these latter groups espoused “Moro right to struggle for self-determination.” History provides lever in the struggle of Moro movements as it conjoins in subsequent years with generally accepted principles of self-determination.

Is BOL the answer to Moro struggle for self-determination?

Before elaborating a discourse on this question, let me return to the theme of this forum: “Self-determination at Last? Bangsamoro Organic Law – Limits, Challenges, and Possibilities.”

By the way, I am not part in framing the theme of today’s forum. For consistency, allow me first to organize my thought along the areas inquired.

The theme “self-determination at last?” impresses double-meaning. One, that Moro self-determination is now in its “last” stage; hence, the “end” with certain form of Moro struggle. Two, it expresses an enthusiasm or euphoria that now, with BOL, self-determination is at hand. This is, I think, the major pulse in Moro areas, despite the chagrin, too, in certain quarter. Yet, the question mark tells all. It evokes uncertainty or question whether BOL is the answer to Moro struggle for self-determination.

On the issue about limits of BOL. For one, to simply raise limitation connotes a wholly negative impression on the new law. Thus, one must primarily speak of BOL’s opportunities before being pinned down on limitation of said organic act.

Understandably, as “opportunities” are already outlined in the said law with commitments and supports expressed by President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials and international entities, it must be the reason why the issue on limits of BOL is raised. (To be continued).

[MindaViews is opinion section of MindaNews. Julkipli Wadi is Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of the Philippines].