The Bangsamoro Crucible

Readers grappling with issues engendered by the aborted signing of the controversial MOA between government and MILF negotiators may find helpful the new book Rethinking the Bangsamoro Crucible published by the Center for People Empowerment and Governance (CenPEG).

The Other View / The Manila Times
Posted by Bulatlat


Readers grappling with issues engendered by the aborted signing of the controversial MOA between government and MILF negotiators may find helpful the new book Rethinking the Bangsamoro Crucible published by the Center for People Empowerment and Governance (CenPEG).

As retired U.P. professor Oscar Evangelista said in the preface: “Philippine history has not been very kind in telling the story of the Filipino Muslims. For too long, stereotyped impressions have been preserved: Muslims have been treated as pirates, barbarians, juramentados who kill Christians, etc. Glossed over is the fact that Islam built the first higher type of civilization in what would become the Philippines.

“The arrival of the Spaniards and the introduction of the Catholic religion sharply divided what was once a people united in pre-colonial beliefs and practices. Thus were born the animosities between Christian and Muslim Filipinos, exacerbated by the writings of the Spaniards who considered the Muslims enemies. The stereotyped impressions of the Muslims were perpetuated by early textbooks which followed the Hispanic colonial perspective.” Evangelista cites the so-called “Moro Wars” pointing to Moro attacks on Christian territories pillaging and kidnapping “slaves” with no explanation of the war from the Muslim side who saw it as a war against colonial aggression.

(My childhood was filled with stories from mother about how some ancestors in Ticao were enslaved by Moro pirates. In 1951 in Zamboanga where the College Editors Guild conference was held, I met people talking about “a good Moro is a dead Moro.” A colleague and I took a side trip to Jolo in the vain hope of seeing classmate Santanina Tillah in Siasi. We got only as far as Jolo and ventured to visit Maimbung on the other side of the island. On the way, men with Enfields got on the bus and looked at us suspiciously. A Moro boy whom we befriended assured us they were his uncle’s men and we were safe. His uncle’s name was Datu Kamlon (tagged by Manila as outlaw) whose men almost decimated the “Nenita Unit” of Col. Napoleon Valeriano—notorious for summarily executing civilians in Central Luzon. When we got back to Jolo, we saw our boat “Turk’s Head” already out at sea, leaving earlier than scheduled. We later took a small boat filled with commiserating and helpful Moro teachers on their way to Zamboanga for summer school).

In this day and age, it is indeed appalling to see the clearly biased reactions against the Muslims in the wake of the exposure of the MOA as unconstitutional and treasonous, especially after the unwarranted killing of civilians in raids conducted by rogue MILF elements. Even the Supreme Court ruling that provisions of the MOA are unconstitutional may be gratuitous since the “state to state treaty approach” used in the peace negotiations will always require constitutional adjustments.

The legitimate issue of federalism has been put on hold since the President has been seen as having a stake in prolonging her term under a parliamentary government. Prof. Temario Rivera, one of the book contributors, said the mistake of the MILF was in negotiating with a government with little credibility.

Evangelista noted that the cry for a better presentation of the plight of the Muslims got a response from nationalist historians—included in the book. Editor Bobby Tuazon said that the idea of coming out with a Moro reader came after CENPEG fellows discussed widespread voters disenfranchisement, cheating and involvement of corrupt election officials in fraud during the May 2007 elections and recent ARMM elections.

What became clear was “the brutal truth of a region in prolonged disquiet—a whole society unhealed from the generational wounds of violence, grinding poverty, and election manipulation.” Tuazon said ARMM and other Muslim provinces constitute “the most depressed region in the Philippines—the outcome of land grabbing by landlords and transnational corporations, and of being left out from so-called development paradigms that all the more fueled armed conflicts with deep historical roots.”

The book contributors include scholars and educators representing varied perspectives on the Bangsa­moro struggle for self-determination. Prize winning author Lualhati M. Abreu traces the roots of nation-states among the Islamized indigenous groups in Min­danao-Sulu-Palawan before Spanish colonial annexation of the archipelago. Abreu depicts Moro resistance to Spanish and American rule through the Third Republic in 1946 that began the cooptation of Moro provinces, resulting in “ethno­cidal attacks by the Philippine armed forces and government backed private armies” from the 1950s to the present.

Islamic scholar Julkipli Wadi’s “Multiple Colonialism in Moro­land” clarifies the four major strands of control in Moroland: U.S. colonialism, Philippine colonialism, multilateral colonialism which includes corporate globalization, and the current U.S. ‘invasion” (under cover of the Visiting Forces Agreement) in its “war on terror.”


With the rapidly deteriorating situation in Mindanao, those concerned can find in Rethinking the Bangsamoro Crucible (CenPEG) a scholarly and useful primer on the history of the Moro struggles since the coming of Spanish colonizers in the 16th century to the present, and on the crucial issues underlying the Mindanao conflict.

One writer Lualhati Abreu provides a historical perspective of Moro resistance to Western colonialism and seeks to clarify the question of ancestral domain which has raised the hackles of non-Muslims (Christians and Lumads) in Mindanao. This territorial claim is said to be at the core of the Bangsamoro’s fight for self-determination.

Land grabbing by transna­tionals and individuals, titling of Moro communal lands, and unjust distribution of public land as homesteads in favor of non-Muslim settlers and carpetbaggers tell the story of why Muslims seek a home state through various forms of struggle including peace negotiations, mediation, international diplomacy, and armed resistance as cited by Temario Rivera.

Islamic studies professor Julkipli Wadi also mentions that “shortsightedness, factionalism, and disunity” has plagued the Moro struggle while Muslim traditional politicians benefit from presumed economic development in Mindanao.

Political scientist Rivera warns that the renewed presence of US troops in Mindanao could “derail efforts for a lasting political solution since American intervention largely subsumes the local armed conflicts to US, strategic interests in its current war on terrorism.” A feasible alternative, says Rivera, is to expand or deepen autono­my under a federal framework or to radically amend the organic act that created ARMM. Legitimising the proposed creation of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is admittedly one of the many intractable issues.

US based scholar Kenneth Bauzon (“Ruminations on the Bangsamoro struggle and Neo­liberal Globalization”) brings a new dimension to the analysis of the Moro struggle. “Overarch­ing economic policies” are pushed by the Philippine government under the “neoliberal globalization” program of foreign countries. Bauzon notes that the US, Japan, Australia and other states have staked their interests in Min­danao by dangling economic aid while pursuing other programs that are “essentially counter-insurgency instruments.”

In an interview with Nur Misuari in 1999, Bauson notes that the MNLF leader failed to recognize or anticipate the neoliberal formula behind the 1996 final peace agreement between the GRP (under Ramos) and the MNLF that brought to an end two decades of Moro rebellion.

Bobby Tuazon in his paper “The Economic and Security Intricacies of the Bangsamoro Struggle” substantiates Bauzon’s thesis that neoliberal globalization underlies the peace agenda and other forms of foreign intervention in Mindanao. He underscores on one hand the interplay of renewed US economic objectives and infusion of economic aid in Manila, and on the other the pursuit of geo-military or security objectives in Southeast Asia through its basing operations in southern Philippines.

Tuazon notes that the US peace overtures to the MILF and its support for the peace process with pledges of financial aid contingent on a final peace agreement are apparently designed to soften Muslim guerrilla intransigence even as the US deepens its basing facilities and operations in the region. He sees indications that the MILF is open to negotiations on US military bases and apparently, Moro leaders “do not take the US presence with a modicum of concern.” In other words, do they welcome this?

Abhoud Syed M. Lingga’s “Understanding the Bangsamoro Right to Self-Determination” suggests that a referendum be held to determine the Bangsamoro people’s decision on self-determination. He is open to the establishment of three independent states—for the Bangsamoro, the indigenous peoples, and the Christian settlements.

Ruling oligarchs in the Bang­samoro as the subject of Prof. Wadi’s “Moro Political Dynasty” are seen as the result of “uninterrupted periods of colonialism, warlordism, and economic marginalization in the Moro society.” He says “the disposition of the structural roots of political dynasty should be part of the Moro struggle, and only then will a genuine Bangs­a­moro state arise.”

Tuazon notes the unique comtribution of Maria Carinnes P. Alejandria’s “Veiled Political Realities: The Case of Muslim Women in Palawan.” While there have been no women mujahideen in the Moro wars of independence (they perform auxiliary roles) because of strong feudal relations in traditional Moro society, Alejandria’s study shows “an increasing level of radical albeit un-articulated dissident politics among them” and the inclination among Muslim women to support the armed movement if “constitutional and conventional means of political participation” do not work.

Finally, poet Alexander Martin Remollino writes about the Moro people’s artistic expressions of their struggle in “Songs of Resistance, Tales of Pride in Moroland.” He notes narrative songs recalling Moro warriors’ battles against US forces at the turn of the century are broadcast as organized Moro communities take to the streets to oppose the presence of US troops in southern Philippines. (The Manila Times / Posted by Bulatlat)

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