By Camilo “Bong” Montesa
MANILA (MindaNews/09 January) — My hope is that we, Filipinos, seek more to understand rather than be understood. To learn to listen with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind. Finding durable solutions to the conflict in Mindanao depends on our ability to listen well.
The Bangsamoro is saying:
We are not Filipinos.We are Bangsamoro. Moro is a nation.
No to integration.
No to unitary state.
Uphold Moro right to self-determination.
If we listen enough, we know that what is being communicated is a sense of identity that is separate and distinct from ours. It is a message that communicates an imagined community different from ours. It is a plea to respect identity and uniqueness.
How shall we respond to this yearning of the Bangsamoro people to call themselves Bangsamoros and not Filipinos? To direct their history and create a better future for themselves and their children free from imposition of the majority?
This message of a separate identity is directed not only to the Philippine Government or the Philippine State but directed ultimately to us, the Filipino people. It is imperative therefore that the whole Filipino society – Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches of Government, local government officials, civil society, non-government and peoples organizations, church and religious leaders, businessmen, military and police, media and ultimately, the people themselves – must be involved in these negotiations. The Executive Branch cannot do it alone.
In the end, we need to listen carefully because that is the only way we can respond boldly to this declaration that they are Bangsamoros, not Filipinos.
What shall our response be to this yearning? Shall we ignore it? Shall we deny it? Shall we accept it?
That is a question that each and every Filipino, not only Government, must answer. (This piece is one of 20 on the theme “Let the talks begin” in the first issue of OUR Mindanao, a monthly publication of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center which will have its Davao launch on January 10 at the Tower Inn, Davao City. Lawyer Camilo “Bong” Montesa of Cagayan de Oro [now based in Metro Manila], was a former member of the government peace panel in the talks with the MILF and was later assigned to the review of the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF).