On the October bombings in Mindanao: ‘These are the Handiwork of Groups Opposing Peace’

The bombings that took place in Mindanao earlier this month are the handiwork of people who want the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to completely collapse, the spokesperson of the Moro revolutionary group said. These, he said, are people who are opposed to the prospects of real peace in Mindanao.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat

The bombings that took place in Mindanao earlier this month are the handiwork of people who want the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to completely collapse, the spokesperson of the Moro revolutionary group said. These, he said, are people who are opposed to the prospects of real peace in Mindanao.

MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu made this observation in a phone interview with Bulatlat.

Two separate bombings occurred in Mindanao last Oct. 10. The first took place at early afternoon in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, wounding four women. The second happened eight hours later in Makilala, North Cotabato, killing six people and wounding 29 others.

“Why are these being carried out at a time when there is an impasse in the GRP-MILF peace talks?” Kabalu said. “The parties could not immediately reach an agreement on the issue of territory, so there was an impasse.”

Ancestral domain

The issue of ancestral domain had emerged last month as the most contentious issue in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations, which are being brokered by the Malaysian government.

The MILF is proposing a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity based on an ancestral domain claim over Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan. But the government had insisted that any areas to be included to the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity in addition to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) should be subject to “constitutional processes” – something which, the MILF said, had not come up in any of the signed documents related to the talks since 1997.

The ARMM – which includes Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Maguindanao – is a product of the 1996 peace agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the GRP, which sought to end the MNLF’s 27-year armed struggle for a separate state.

During the presidency of Diosdado Macapagal (1961-1965), Sabah, an island near Mindanao to which the Philippines has a historic claim, ended up in the hands of the Malaysian government.

During his first presidential term, Ferdinand Marcos conceived a scheme which involved the recruitment of between 28 and 64 Moro fighters to occupy Sabah. The recruits were summarily executed repeortedly by their military superiors in 1968, in what is now known as the infamous Jabidah Massacre. According to Moro historian Salah Jubair, this was because they had refused to follow orders.

The Jabidah Massacre triggered widespread outrage among the Moros and led to the formation of the MNLF that same year.

The MNLF entered into a series of negotiations with the GRP, beginning in the 1970s under the Marcos government. In 1996, it signed a “Final Peace Agreement” with the GRP which created the ARMM as a concession to the group.

Impasse and bombings

“These attacks happened shortly after (the impasse arose), so the MILF is being blamed for these,” Kabalu said. “There is something rather suspicious in this. What we see is the intent to make the GRP-MILF peace process collapse.”

In an earlier statement, Hermein Arendain, spokesperson of the party-list group Suara Bangsamoro (Voice of the Moro People) in Davao City, made a similar observation. “It is highly (suspicious) that the series of bombings in Mindanao came at a time when Congress was debating on the enactment of (the Anti-Terrorism Bill) and the GRP-MILF peace talk is in an impasse,” Arendain said in an Oct. 16 statement.

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