Monday, September 5, 2016

On the Bangsamoro Question--dismantle the instruments of war by making Muslim Filipinos feel the concern and love of government

Since the establishment of a Sultanate around the 14th century in those islands of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan, the Muslims of these territories were mostly traders. Sulu was the center of regional trade between these islands and Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam. Westerners also trade with them, including the British, Dutch, Spanish and Americans.

When the Americans came, they unleashed war in these territories, and caused the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Tausugs. Worse, due to the intense regionalism felt by Maranaos and Maguindanao-ans, all the more fueled by the Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) strategy employed by the Americans, the Sultanate of Sulu came under the political control of the Americans and placed within Philippine territory and thus, became a province under the Republic of the Philippines.

During the time of Magsaysay, government encouraged Filipinos from the North and from the islands of the Visayas to occupy certain lands in Mindanao. It was then that conflicts arose when greedy speculators seized the lands of the Bangsamoros. It thus led to interracine fighting which occurs up to this day.

Bangsamoros are fighting for their land. As written in the Noble Qu'ran, land is one of the blessings of ALLAH SWT and fighting for the right to possess and occupy when provoked by outside forces, is a holy right and one of the conditions for jihad.

Until now, most Tausugs do not recognize the right of the Republic of the Philippines to exercise political, social and economic control over their lands. And I understand why. How would you shore up trust with the Republic when at the time of Marcos, instead of extending to them economic opportunities, the Tausugs got war instead. From the seventies until now, there has been numerous encounters and wars and conflicts in these parts of the South that has scarred it for life. Generations upon generations of Muslims in these parts have not felt the concern of the government, hence it stymied economic development in the area which caused the people to be perpetually bonded and enslaved by political dynasties which exploit the poverty of the people.

To liberate the Tausugs, they must struggle against these forces which are being perpetuated by the government. The problem of the Muslims in the South is not what kind of governance model they should be under--it is the lack of opportunities to live under the precepts of their religion that allows this never-ending cycle of violence in their communities.

For a pious Muslim, life is simply a life lived according to Islam. When this life is disrupted, jihad follows. It is in the DNA of every Muslim to fight for what is Right, condemn what is Wrong and raise the banner of Allah SWT, every single moment of his life.

To solve the Bangsamoro problem, there should be a conscious effort by government and assisted by civil society and the private sector for the Tausugs and the rest of the Bangsamoro Nation to show the concern and sincerity of government that these institutions are aiming to:

1. Create a stabilized environment in the South, dismantle the causes of conflicts, de-mobilize the mechanisms of war, and re-model an economic system that suits the Muslims living in Mindanao.

2. Assist SMEs in these areas through government securities and investments. Grow this sector by allowing more banks to extend loan services to basic sectors, particularly SMEs and traders.

3. Dismantle political dynasties thru a series of political actions meant to empower groups instead of individuals to ascend the rungs of power in the regional and provincial levels. The type of governance model should be consultative, with one Sultan representing the interests of all Muslims in the area. It should be called a confederation of sultanates---the Sultanates of Sulu, Maguindanao and Lanao, the traditional sultanates which until now, are recognized by all Muslims there as their own.

4. Institutionalising components for change thru government intervention, allowing the growth of organs of power and ensuring strict compliance of Shariah, the body of laws respected by every Muslim.

Insstead of turning these areas once more into a magnet for regional jihad, the Duterte administration should begin re-inventing the wheel so to speak, and promote and provide lasting solutions to this age-old problem in the South.

Instead of war, let our government talk with the stakeholders there. Exhaust all possible means for peace. Then, if these solutions are still ineffective, then, create peace thru war.