Memo to President P-Noy: How to resolve the Maguindanao SAF massacre

HINDSIGHT - F Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2015 - 12:00am

Passions are still very high — the massacre of those 44 policemen in Maguindanao has angered many Filipinos. Many questions remain to be answered by the President himself. The MILF is culpable. The sincerity of its leaders must now be illustrated. Why is it hiding a foreign terrorist in its so-called territory?

The President does not know how to empathize with the grieving hundreds whose loved ones were massacred last Sunday. He was not at the airport when those planes brought back the coffins of the dead. It will come as no surprise, then, if the entire police force and the Armed Forces will no longer feel loyal to him.

This should instruct all of our leaders. The Armed Forces is the only institution that can hold the nation together in whatever climate. It is not the Catholic Church in spite of all that piety evoked by Pope Francis. It is not the bureaucracy, nor the schools. To repeat: it is the Armed Forces that is the true bulwark of this nation. Unleashed on the Moro rebels, it can resolve the rebellion immediately as did the Sri Lanka Army in defeating the Tamil rebellion that had shriveled Sri Lanka for three decades.

But this is not the solution to the Moro rebellion. Not only is it very expensive — it will also leave so many wounds in the nation that will never be healed.

What, then, is the solution?

As I already stated way back, there is no resolution to minority problems, not here or elsewhere. What we can only hope for is that it does not become violent and result in the death of more people. As it is, thousands of lives and billions of pesos have already been lost since the Seventies when the rebellion started.

In the first place, religion has nothing to do with it. If at all, religion is now used to exacerbate the situation. Many Moro and Christian marriages continue to take place to this very day. The movement of Moros is not hindered — we can see them now in so many parts of the country, all the way to the Ilokos where they have found safe haven, where they have merged successfully with the population.

Land is the major cause of the rebellion, and culture conflicts, too. The Moros themselves have to recognize this. First, the clan wars. The Ampatuan massacre five years ago, which shocked not just Filipinos but the whole world, was one such war.

Then there is the ethnic divide among the Moros themselves. The Tausugs have openly opposed the Bangsamoro Basic Law that the government hopes Congress will approve.

Their opposition to it erupted in violence when the forces of Nur Misuari occupied Zamboanga a couple of years ago. Up to now, many of those who were dispossessed of their homes and livelihood — among them many Moros themselves — have yet to recover from that tragedy.

Another basic problem among the Moros is their “datu” system which impedes economic and social mobility. Many capable Moros cannot rise because they do not belong to these entrenched “royal” families.

And finally, many of the Moros are lazy. They themselves know this. Christian communities flourish because, as immigrants, the settlers are industrious and enterprising.

Way back in the Fifties, I used to go around Mindanao and Sulu all by myself. I stayed with Moro families. I was in Jolo for a month during the Kamlon campaign and that was where I saw that the Moro rebellion did not require a military solution.

Development is the answer. Develop the Moro areas as fast as possible. The underdeveloped and poor communities are fertile recruiting grounds for Moro rebel leaders. This is one reason why they themselves do not want their areas developed.

The agricultural potential of Mindanao and Basilan cannot be realized for such futures are held hostage by the rebellion. Those beautiful beaches in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi — some are lovelier than Boracay — they cannot be developed until the natives there can assure the safety and security of visitors. Peace, therefore, is the first requirement in all these places if they are to bring the good life to the Moros themselves.

To develop these areas without internal support is very difficult so it is necessary to show to them that their best people should be given opportunities to serve.

I am not optimistic at all about any treaty or agreement with the Moro rebels for the simple reason that the treaty will not be honored by them. They will mangle it, as did Nur Misuari with the original agreement on the ARMM. So much depends, then, on a non-Moro government in welcoming Moro participation. I ask why is there no Moro in the Senate: Santanina Rasul, Mike Tamano were there in the past — others should take their place.

Why is there no Moro in the Cabinet?

Why is there no Moro in the Supreme Court? I lobbied for Michael Mastura and had hoped that he would get there. To me, he is one of the brightest minds in Mindanao. Why did no president appoint him to the Supreme Court?

Why are there no ranking Moro officers in our Armed Forces? I remember Col. Mamarinta Lao who headed the PC in Jolo during the Kamlon revolt. There should be more officers like him. How many Moro students are in the Philippine Military Academy?

In the meantime, what can the President do?

First and foremost, he must tell the MILF to surrender all the men who participated in the killing of the policemen to the justice system.

The MILF must also give back all the arms they got from the dead.

Explain why a confirmed terrorist is hiding in their area, and with their obvious protection. Decimate the breakaway rebel group.

Their failure to do this means that the whole agreement will be discarded. In the first place, it will now be very difficult for Congress to pass it. And we will go back to square one.

In which case, the Moro rebels will lose more. The Army will be on guard. In the meantime, the development process will be enhanced until poverty — the main cause of the rebellion in Mindanao — will be banished.

This may take generations. But we all have to work on it.



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