COMMENT: Three Essential Notes. By Patricio P. Diaz


“Bangsamoro” is derived from “Bangsa”, meaning “nation”, and “Moro”, the Islamized people comprising 13 ethno-linguistic groups: Badjao, Iranun (also: Ilanun), Jama-Mapun, Kalagan, Kalibugan, Maguindanao, Maranao, Molbog (or, Melebugnon), Palawani, Samal, Sangil, Tausug, Yakan. (From: Bangsamoro Society and Culture, by Jamail A. Kamlian)

Historian Rudy B. Rodil lists also 13 groups, in the order of population from highest to lowest: Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug Sama, Iranun, Yakan, Kalibugan/Kolibagan, Kalagan, Sangil, Jama Mapun, Sama Dilaut (Badyao) Panimusang/Palimusa, and Malbog (Palawan). Some of the names in some other references may have other variations.

“Moro” or “Muslim” also refers to any Christian-Filipino converted to Islam. By accident, Christians and other non-Muslims in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are considered Bangsamoro.

When referring to the Moro nation, “Bangsamoro nation” is usually used; when referring to the Moro people, “Bangsamoro people”. “Bangsamoro” can be singular, to mean individual Moro; or collective, to mean people. An American writer sees “Bangsamoro nation” or “Bangsamoro people” as redundant; but common usage should prevail.


“Bangsamoro” leaders are in three main categories: traditional leaders, Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Traditional leaders have always been loyal to Manila; the MNLF has signed an agreement with the government and the MILF is still negotiating. They all cite the Bangsamoro people as the reason for their being.

They all have loyal followers. When they speak about the “support of the Bangsamoro people”, they really mean the Bangsamoro people loyal to them. Hence, the Bangsamoro people are also in three main categories: traditionalist, MNLF and MILF.

Thousands of MNLF members met in a Davao City beach resort last December 8 for their “2nd Extraordinary Consultative Session” to discuss the review of the Final Peace Agreement and the GRP-MILF agreement soon to be signed. The consensus would surely be called “the sentiments of the grassroots” or of “the Bangsamoro people” – the MNLF Bangsamoro people.

Ethno-linguistic identities define political, social and cultural grouping and loyalty. The rotation of the ARMM governorship among the Maguindanaos, Maranaos and Tausugs is a sensitive issue. The MNLF is predominantly Tausug; the MILF, Maguindanao and Maranao; traditional leadership is hereditary among Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug and other clans.

“Bangsamoro” is both the spirit and identity of the MNLF rebellion. Even after the MNLF splintered into three factions, “Bangsamoro” remained the moving spirit and common identity of the factions. While remaining loyal to Manila, traditional leaders took on the Bangsamoro identity. Like any other nation, Bangsamoro has divided constituency and loyalty.

But ethno-linguistic biases and prejudices may undermine the Bangsamoro. MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghazai Jaafar exhorted MILF committee officials and military commanders to think “Bangsamoro” not Maguindanao, Maranao, etc. (Luwaran, Nov. 16). It should as well have been, “Think Bangsamoro, not MILF, MNLF or traditionalist.”

Peace Process

Peace is not just the absence of war but also of want and fear. Much more than that, it is the presence of political stability, economic equitability and prosperity, social justice, contentment and security, moral and legal justice, religious freedom and cultural plurality and tolerance. That’s holistic peace.

Peace process is the evolution or development of conditions leading to the attainment of holistic peace. Peace that is not holistic is not peace. Peace process must permeate governance to restore peace where it is missing and to nurture peace where it is flourishing.

For instance, giving lands to the landless poor and helping them make their lands productive will lead to economic and social prosperity, contentment and security. It will assuage the feeling of neglect and banish disillusionment. It is a process of restoring peace where there is unrest; of strengthening peace where there is peace. This is just one in the network of the many interlocking and interrelated peace processes

Mindanao has long been experiencing intermittent wars because of centuries old grievances of the Muslims against Manila dating back to the Spanish time. The Philippine government, like the Spanish and the American, viewed peace in Mindanao just as the absence of war – so, the cycle of war and no-war has remained unbroken.
Whenever trouble broke out, Manila would send military troops to suppress it or send emissaries to pacify the leader with promises and grants of power, perks and favor. But during the absence of war, the grievances and other roots of the trouble were forgotten. It’s like using palliatives to ease pain but never curing the sickness and keeping the patients healthy when not in pain.

If the Arroyo government is in constant political and social crisis, it is most likely due to the absence of the peace process in its governance. Nationwide, there may be absence of war; but there is also glaring absence of conditions that must be present to have holistic peace.

Peace Agreement

Any peace agreement must be one that works. To be such, it has to be relevant to the peace process. To have such an agreement, all the necessary and vital issues must be brought out and discussed “without reservation and evasion” at the negotiation table – with or without the “help of God”. The solutions agreed should be sufficient to evolve or develop conditions necessary for building holistic peace.

Ten years after the 1996 Final Peace Agreement was signed, the Jeddah Tripartite Meeting was called to review its implementation as complained of by the MNLF. This is an indication that the Agreement did not work as expected and desired. More serious an indicator than that, peace and order and economic conditions in Muslim Mindanao have practically remained unchanged.

Now that the Jeddah Tripartite Meeting has been finally convened, what should be first looked into is the workability of the provisions not fully implemented. Are these relevant to the peace process? If not, their implementation will not advance holistic peace in Muslim Mindanao.

Lawyer Randolph Parcasio, head of the MNLF delegation, said that among the provisions not fully implemented are those on “development projects” and “the right of representation in the Cabinet, Judiciary, etc.” of the Muslims (MindaNews, December 9). The first is relevant to the peace process. As to the second, will putting Muslims in the Cabinet or the Judiciary advance the peace process?

The entire 1996 FPA should be reviewed for its workability. The fault may not just be in how Congress enacted it into RA 9054. The same test of workability should be applied to the still-to-be-completed GRP-MILF pact. It will be a pity if the more than ten years of negotiation will result in an agreement that will not work as an instrument of peace.

Final Note

To secure holistic peace in Muslim Mindanao, Muslim leaders must let the “Bangsamoro” transcend ethno-linguistic and factional identities, thinking and sentiments. That will transform the traditional leaders, MNLF and MILF into one as leaders of one Bangsamoro nation to make the Muslims one Bangsamoro people loyal to one nation.

Thus reconciled and united, Bangsamoro leaders – after the signing of the GRP-MNLF pact – must consolidate the amended RA 9054, with reference to the FPA if necessary, and the GRP-MILF Agreement according to their relevance to the peace process. The consolidated document will be the genuine sentiment and will of the Bangsamoro people for the Bangsamoro nation.

The Philippine Government and the Organization of Islamic Conference may be asked to sign the document as witnesses only – not as parties to an agreement. The representatives of the traditional leaders, the MNLF and the MILF are the sole signatories to the document – a source of pride and inspiration.

The consolidated document should be the Charter or Organic Law defining the system of government of the Bangsamoro Homeland. If not, the Bangsamoro leaders should write the Charter based on the consolidated document. The Philippine government should respect and confirm it – through Congress, if necessary – as the will of the Bangsamoro people.

Uniting as Bangsamoro, consolidating their agreements with the Philippine government under the principles of the peace process in keeping with their aspirations, the Moro leaders will be able to realize a Moro Homeland blessed with holistic peace. This is a difficult but doable challenge.

With my apologies to all of them, right now, the Muslim leaders are the main obstacle to peace process in Muslim Mindanao. They all profess to be Bangsamoro. But the traditional leaders are Manila-bound and the MNLF and MILF, while struggling for supremacy against each other as Bangsamoro leaders, look up to the OIC for help in their quest for a Moro Homeland.

Disunity is the weakness they must overcome.

("Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You can reach him at