Stoking a religious war in Mindanao
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - February 3, 2019 - 12:00am

The latest report from the military pointed to an Indonesian couple suicide bombers behind the bombing of the cathedral in Jolo. It was followed by the bombing of a mosque in Zamboanga. The culprits may be found but there is a bigger picture to the incidents coming as it did after the successful plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law a few days ago.

The twin bombings show partisans more interested in continuing the war by stoking a religious conflict. To them the bigger picture is to keep the war going using religious differences between Christianity and Islam.

The plebiscite showed the willingness of the majority to make peace as the will of the communities, whether Christian or Muslim. Both have lived together through many years so it is a flimsy excuse from warmongers to continue the war.

The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy added their voice to the quest for peace. “We stand in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in Jolo in the wake of the bombings that took the lives of 20 people and wounded countless others during mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel,” it said in a press release yesterday.

“We pray for the full recovery of those injured and vehemently condemn this deliberate act of terrorism that may dilute the gains of peace achieved by the Bangsamoro People after the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law or BOL.

“As such, we urge the Filipino people, especially those in Mindanao to exercise caution and vigilance. This is the time for us to stand against these terrorists who seek to divide the Bangsamoro people and cast fear. We must recommit to protecting one another from threats of violence by reporting to the authorities suspicious movements of individuals or groups that threaten the peace and order situation in our communities.

“This incident is also a bleak reminder to all sectors of the urgency to address the issue of violent extremism in conflict-affected communities of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“Thus, we call on government and stakeholders to act now and establish a national action plan that will develop systemic preventive steps to address the conditions that drive individuals to radicalize and join violent extremist groups and put in place security-based counter-terrorism measures.

“We also appeal to our leaders to take a rational and pragmatic approach to this crisis to prevent violence from further escalating in the region.” - Amina Rasul, a known moderate is head of the group.

In my opinion, part of the pragmatism is to accept that a solution will not come quickly. It will evolve and will take many long years to achieve the sharing of political power and economic benefits between the Muslim and Christian parts of the Philippines.

The plebiscite was a first step in a long process.

I think it may be more acceptable if we were to separate the federalist principle of freedom than the difficulties on how to create a fully functioning federal state. The federalist principle is freedom for communities to manage their economy as well as their political and justice systems.

The Bangsamoro organic law is designed to make that freedom possible without secession. The plebiscite was won for that purpose.

The Christian-Moro conflict if I may refer to that as such has a long history. And as my friend Dr. Michael Mastura said over and over again when he was still active with the MILF: the US has an obligation to resolve the Moro question because it was responsible for creating the mess in the first place. He blames it for incorporating Moroland, an independent entity as part of the Philippines. This official line is carried by the MILF. It is one view and by no means the only one. It has an ignoble streak. To others it seeks to justify foreign intervention with what should be an internal issue. It is a one-sided view of history.

In other countries federal states were independent before political union as is the case of the European Union. The reverse is more difficult to achieve and the reason why countries interested in the structure are discussing how to help each other. But we can begin with encouraging the federalist principle in the discussions in the Philippines.

Most Filipinos especially Christians are not aware that the mosque in Marawi is one of the oldest in the Philippines. When the Mautes and their foreign allies, ISIS attacked to take over the city, the origin of Islam in the Philippines was not considered.

Islam came before Christianity to trade with the Philippines. The Muslims fought in vain in the wars of colonialism of the Philippines. Bangsa Moro was incorporated as part of the defeated North. I do not favor the Mautes or their ISIS allies’ rebellion and their chosen path of violence. But it will help us to understand the roots of the conflict.

Federalism would give Bangsamoro some political control of their region while staying within the nation state of the Philippines.

There are more than 25 countries in the world today that have federal systems of government. That means more than 40 percent of the world are governed by a federal system in one form or another.

According to political experts, federalism is emerging as the central ethos of an emerging civilization that recognizes both national and sub-national identities and promotes regional and global frameworks for better understanding, coordination and cooperation.

Today the champion of federalism in the Philippines is President Rody Duterte who is from Mindanao.

He will work for the Philippines to stay as one country but with smaller communities with political clout to govern their communities.

With this kind of division, it is understandable why the local authorities are unable to support themselves. The unjust division is also one of the reasons why the Muslims would rather secede.

Federalism is the best antidote to secession feared by most Filipinos who do not understand the system.

I must add that to do this we should strengthen the moderate Muslims who want political solutions against extremists like the Mautes and ISIS.

In his speech after being proclaimed the standard-bearer of PDP-Laban political party, Duterte said he has no ambition to run for president, but decided to do so when his political party’s leaders urged him to run and push for federalism.

“Kinausap ako to carry the torch of federalism,” Duterte said. “I will build a nationwide consensus for federalism.”

Federalism as the only solution to achieve peace and order in Mindanao. Both Christians and Muslims must work for it.

BANGSAMORO ORGANIC LAW PEACE
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