Quantcast Current: August 2008 Archives

August 2008 Archives

Wrapped in the flag

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But it seems to me questionable whether any government has the right to demand loyalty from its citizens beyond its willingness or ability to render actual protection. -Quezon To MacArthur, January 28, 1942 For once, I agree absolutely with Bong Montesa: never play the game of chicken. If this recent Inquirer editorial pointed out the administration has so botched up the peace process and is zigzagging so clumsily today, as to make the restoration of peace so much more difficult, the subsequent Inquirer editorial,suggests the MILF finds itself in a bind, because of the hostilities that have erupted and for which it took credit. Pointing to August 22 news item MILF Chair Al Haj Murad raise points in meeting IMT and the from Luawaran.com, the editorial suggested that the MILF (or the faction of its leadership that wanted to achieve its political aims through negotiations) was trying to invoke the assistance of its Malaysian sponsors. See -MILF asks Malaysia to convene peace panel - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos Davao City councilor Peter Lavina in his bog, suggests that the Malaysian government officially speaking, is supportive. But the political reality in Malaysia is that the government is in its own version of survival mode. Lip service and a little diplomatic nudging here and there is all very good, but in determining the cost-effectiveness of using a nation's resources (diplomacy, economics, military, etc.) there is little going for Malaysia if it publicly supports armed rebellion on the part of the MILF. Militarily, even, the dilemma is there. If you assume, as some do, that the MILF possesses SAM's in its inventory, it cannot use them now, or even later. For to do so would provide proof of foreign funding or at least facilitation/support; and regionally speaking, Malaysia as the likely culprit would trigger unease in Indonesia and alarm countries like Thailand (both being firm U.S. allies) which is fighting its own Muslim secessionists. And so it seems the last-ditch appeal, perhaps by the more moderate among the MILF's leadership, is for the Malaysians to give a sign that they continue to enjoy that country's confidence and backing, in an effort to convince the other foreign powers to head off full-blown hostilities. Again, here is a confluence of interests: the Americans wouldn't be too keen on hostilities because as the primary funder of our armed forces it would have to foot the bill and this includes what the Americans know all too well includes lining generals' pockets (see Who Profits From The War in Mindanao? | Filipino Voices). It wouldn't even really help the American arms industry. Not much money to be gained with out Korea and Vietnam War-era weaponry.Add to this the possibility that SouthEast Asia, including the Philippines, exists in a kind of policy limbo vis-a-vis Washington: In Asia » Blog Archive » Asian Policy Challenges for the Next President. But that doesn't mean that these nations could prevent a shooting war, either. So when the MILF announced, on August 21, it would hold a press conference on August 23, I had deep misgivings. What would they say? After their former brio, they'd been complaining that AFP uses excessive force in attack pulverizing Muslim communities, which ignores who started the fighting or the absurdity of expecting the AFP not to send in the PAF. Though they did have a point in saying MILF: CAFGUs, CVOs, plus Pinol, et al=Ilagas which the PNP, for one, validated by the tactic of arming civilian militias (see PNP sending shotguns to Mindanao auxiliaries - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos). The news of state-armed militias is indeed troubling; it is a sign of weakness and does not address the sort of insecurities that led to this: see Iligan City Hall Sights « preMEDitated. Where did this insecurity come from? On one part, the public being unsure of what, really, the administration's game plan was concerning Mindanao (in a nutshell: An irresponsible response « Mon Casiple’s Weblog on Philippine Politics). Second, the Palace having to respond to public hostility to its peace plan, and that response being at best, a confusing combination of bluster and appeasement. ALthough RG Cruz puts forward the Palace line of a STRATEGY CHANGE | RG CRUZ which suggests some sort of rhyme or reason, crude zigzaging seems a more appropriate description: Malacañang Backtracks on BJE MoA Even As Supreme Court Set to Rule on Constitutionality » The Warrior Lawyer | Philippine Lawyer. Third, uncertainty concerning traditional allies such as the United States (see US silent on MILF terrorism « Peter Laviña New Blog) and Fourth, the possibility that the armed forces intervened by mounting operations even when the President hadn't quite made up her mind on that to do. In his blog, thenutbox actually suggests the President announced offensive operations to retroactively rubberstamp the armed forces' decision to begin them, regardless of the President's position on the matter:

What my uncle told me was that Mrs. Arroyo actually ordered the attacks against MILF after the generals have already decided to launch the AFP offensive. Arroyo’s inability to control her temper, his hypothesis went on, is actually borne out of her fright of the generals’ deciding by themselves without consulting her. She made a complete turn-around in his policy towards the MILF to appease the generals who were clearly pissed off with the BJE deal she made with the rebel group. And she wanted to appease the generals as soon as possible, hence her uncontrolled emotions for the delay of the taping. At first I dismissed this as another conspiracy theory from a Gloria-hater. But veteran journalist Ellen Tordessillias, in a reply to a comment I posted on her blog, confirmed that, indeed, the anti-MILF mopping operations were actually carried out before the Bitch ordered them.
Put another way (see Philippine Politics 04: Arroyo needs to defend and explain the MOA-AD) if the President really did see the deal as an opportunity to display statesmanship, her statesmanlike resolve dissolved quite quickly, indeed. And Fifth, I'd say, a kind of latent nationalism everyone in official circles had assumed wasn't there anymore (see This is what will happen to the Philippines after signing the GRP - MILF Memorandum of Agreement : OTWOMD | Bluepanjeet.Net) The President hasn't given supporters of the peace deal any chance to save themselves or the cause of peace. Which, sad to say, has been the repeated experience of those who still suffer from the delusion that they can achieve their idealistic goals by means of a pragmatic alliance with the President. So if there are defenders, still, of the MOA: MOA-AD a path to peace, says Archbishop Quevedo « SCRIPTORIUM and refer to Red's Herring: SC review imperils Mindanao peace process; then see The Palace’s High Cost of Learning | ralphguzman.org. And refer to GOING IN CIRCLES « THE MOUNT BALATUCAN MONITOR and PUSONG MAMON « THE MOUNT BALATUCAN MONITOR to get a glimpse into how people -particularly Filipinos seized by uncertainty in the affected areas of Mindanao- began to send the message to civilian and military officials alike that in the absence of any reassuring information that the governmet knew what it was doing and would defend citizens seized by panic, that they would then take matters into their own hands. And the would do so in the manner of their forefahers, see Viva Iligan! « preMEDitated:
In the speech, he appealed for: Calm. Bravery. Community. And Solidarity. He also urged community leaders to lead the people under them, to prepare for the worst, and fight if the need arose. He also mentioned the presence of the tanks and the several thousand strong army defending Iligan. He also mentioned that the people of Iligan should not be afraid because God and Senior San Miguel was on our side. He closed his speech with a, “Viva Senior San Miguel!,” to which the people heartily replied a “Viva”. Although, I’m Protestant and do not agree with Catholic veneration of saints and even angels, I could not help but realize that the Mayor was speaking the heart language of the Iliganon, something that they could understand. He was speaking the old language of the Spanish times at the time when the citizens of the old fort of Iligan defended the fort and even waged battle against the Moros. Historically, even though Iligan was just a doorstep away from the Moro stronghold of Marawi, it was never conquered by Muslims despite the fact that at that time their pirates raided Christian towns as far away as Luzon.
"War," Clausewitz famously wrote, "is the continuation of politics by other means." Samuel Johnson also famously warned that "patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels," and yet it is also a time when a formerly divided people can find unity and leaders can tap into a kind of mystical reservoir of national solidarity and idealism: As Juned Sonido, perhaps one of the most even-tempered bloggers around reflected, in a time of conflict there is the need to be aware of the dangers of jingoism and the imperative that should weigh heavily on all those in authority: to provide protection from those who hold allegiance to the state. What distinguishes the two? A clear and present danger, a compelling need:
At present waltzing around the negotiation table is as useful as cupping a corpse. It is hard to negotiate when one side has not given up the armed option or has no control over its army while the other side seems to be following the likes Neville Chamberlain at Munich - practicing vermi-negotiation or the art and science of negotiations by the worms at Munich. Meanwhile, the war continues and people are hurt. A few hours ago a bomb was exploded in Zamboanga. Will this again reach the other corners of the country. Another bomb in the MRT or LRT? Is this jingoism? No. This is a matter of national self defense. It is the duty of the State to protect the citizens who opt to stay in this country. Otherwise these same citizens will go to other means to protect themselves.
You have to wonder whether such viligantism can view anything other than bloodcurdling hostility as acceptable. By way of Carl Parkes -- FriskoDude: Philippines: The Sulu Zone of Peace who points us to Jolo's gun culture - Sidetrip with Howie Severino, we catch a glimpse of the complexities of conflict and clan relationships among the Moros. Those like the Catholic bishops clamoring for peace know from personal experience that peace is possible but peace between Christians and Muslims is made doubly difficult as peace among the Moros is difficult enough to achieve. Though it can be done: see A Lesson on Clan Conflict Resolution in the Philippines. The reality however is that even though it's always denied it, the Palace is sensitive to public opinion particularly when that opinion starts triggering May, 2001 flashbacks in the President's inner circle. Where that opinion is -and how it's increasingly hostile to any policy other than crushing the MILF- can be gleaned from surveying the blogosphere: See The Journal of The Jester-in-Exile: Are Yu Dif? Didna Her? then The Philippine Experience, as well as fiesty commentaries from mindanao is the land, promise « Geisha (gay-’sya) Diaries and Mindanao « the Scribe in Me and The Art and Science of - Notes from an Apathetic Atenean Doctor. As well as idiosyncratic thoughts: hay.. and A SCENARIO EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH OUT « THE MOUNT BALATUCAN MONITOR. On a more philosophical note, two entries discuss A Just War | Filipino Voices and A Just War: Road to A Just Peace | Filipino Voices (what is a "Just War"? See Just War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). The voices raised against war are few and far between, see: Oppose the Mindanao War « Pinoy Observer And while some will ask (and perhaps hope) Critical Criterion Edition: Peace in Mindanao? Here is A sober reminder that the war is real | Filipino Voices which makes for cautionary reading, as does this entry from General Santos City, in For the Children | HomewardBound:
12:52 PM Our principal called for an emergency meeting, the second meeting we had today that zeroed in on matters of safety and security. The schools has received calls that messages were circulating about schools in General Santos City whose students and teachers were hostaged. We were not very sure of the report but for the reason that we have to secure the safety of our students, we have decided to send them home. However, we could not simply let them take the public transport, which will drop them in downtown GenSan. So, we arranged for vehicles that will take them to their respective homes. Those who have their own vehicles were fetched by their parents. What happened in the elementary school is a different story. Panicking parents rushed to the school fetching their kids. Some drivers told us about the chaos in the elementary school. Some member of the authorities went to our school to reassure us that none of the reported events were true and that we are relatively safer here. That’s a bit of a relief. But who knows what will happen next? Better safe than sorry.
Intuitive: We Need Your Prayers echoes the unreported reality for most Filipinos, worried about loved ones and even their property and livelihoods. Meanwhile, everyone waits to see which side will escalate matters and bring the front lines to other metropolitan centers of the Philippines.

On those official plates

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Today's Inquirer editorial proposes the abolition of special license plates for officials. This is an issue that appears and clutters the opinion pages and then wanes with predictable regularity. Officialdom, even when not corrupt or abusive, thrives on the symbols of privilege. Special license plates are the equivalent of the gold braid and other insignia that obsesses the military, for example (reading the story of virtually any revolutionary army and you'll find, as happened to Washington and Aguinaldo, that even in societies aiming to establish a republican regime, titles and symbols of rank obsessed those holding and aspiring to them). The plates that members of the House and the Senate use are often abused not by the members themselves, but their relatives. College campus parking lots often boast vehicles bearing Congressional plates used by the children or nieces and nephews of Representatives, for example. Neither the schools nor the student bodies do anything about it. I have always opposed the abolition of official plates not only because I believe that protocol is not the real issue at hand and therefore, that those who oppose protocol only do so from ignorance and the wrong sort of egalitarian instincts but because they do serve a practical purpose. For example, the editorial completely ignored the flipside to the reality it pointed out: the reality being that it may just be that policemen who spot vehicles bearing official plates will be intimidated into not enforcing traffic rules when it comes to that vehicle; the flipside is that what is probably more intimidating is neither the vehicle nor the plate but rather, the strong probability whoever's riding in the vehicle is accompanied by bodyguards and a motorcyle escort composed of policemen more senior and agressive than any regular traffic enforcer. The editorial also ignores the executive department. Aside from the President of the Philippines (No. 1) and the Vice-President of the Philippines (No. 2) in the past, cabinet members had their own official plates. But if you've noticed, even cabinet members entitled to cabinet plates have dispensed with using them. Does this mean that they rush around without the benefit of motorcycle escorts or bodyguards? Of course not. What they do is rush around with escort vehicles and a retinue of motorcycle escorts with sirens, but without official plates, and, I've noticed quite often in recent years, usually without any license plates attached to their vehicle at all. The end result of this is that no one can stop the little convoy trying to bully its way through traffic, but no one can figure out who the official is, although it's obvious (because some of the escort vehicles sport license plates with red numbers, indicating they are government vehicles) that the person being escorted is an official. Proximity of the little convoys to and from the presidential palace indicates they're off to or coming from the Palace. Presidents periodically issue Executive Orders, Administrative Orders, Memorandum Circulars, etc., regulating the use of motorcycle escorts (if memory serves me right, the most recent one limits official escorts and sirens to the President, Vice-President, Senate President. Speaker of the House and Chief Justice, Nos. 1 to 5, respectively), an executive issuance the chief executive's own subordinates take the lead in ignoring. Members of Congress in a sense, are too stupid to realize they are living proof of why official plates make sense. As elected officials, they have to respond to the public and when the public is critical of their behavior, they have to modify it accordingly: and the public knows what it does precisely because the official plates identify the members of the legislature. In contrast, officials in the executive department have it both ways: they violate the law, and do so with impunity, because they continue to enjoy anonymity. It seems the Speaker of the House is too stupid to tell the LTO, which wants each official plate to identify the district the legislator belongs to, that it ought to look into the number of vehicles used by cabinet members and other presidential subordinates that don't use license plates at all, and all of which violates executive issuances, and how diplomatic vehicles (the 1000 plates used by ambassadors which are supposed to identify the country of the ambassador) tape over their country designations. But he is not being too politically-obtuse in not holding a caucus asking his colleagues to limit the plates they use (ideally, each legislator should only get one pair of plates for one vehicle, not multiple plates for multiple vehicles as happens these days) and agree to identifying their districts (if the objection is security then the legislator ought to not use official plates, and not use escorts, and take their chances going incognito in private cars). They'd never agree, and he knows it. Keep the official plates. We're entitled to know where our representatives are, and whether they drive around with a minimum of fuss or with an elaborate escort. As with so many things, the debate is over the wrong things -not official plates, but the abuse of them and that includes new innovations as demonstrated by the executive department.

Berserkers and a breather

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The President's fury at inept underlings made the evening news and was blogged extensively (one of the first to do so was Ang sa Wari Ko; while A Filipina Mom Blogger used it as a take off point for a discussion on stress management). But it was Palace reporter Jove Francisco who put the exhibition of presidential temper in its proper context:
She’s naturally stern and “mataray” and I believe she’s been using this trait so that she’ll get things running and will make her officials more responsible and quick moving. Sabi nga nung sassy reporter di ba, being mataray isn’t really a bad thing. But seeing her actions this noon. The outburst? The overflow of emotions? I couldn’t help but compare it with past incidents. Before, her taray ways surfaced for a reason, for an aim. Today? What happened, sadly, showed that she wasn’t able to control her emotions. Sure, the outburst was borne out of frustration because of the inefficiency of her staff. (Pareho lang kapag pinapagalitan ang mga opisyales niya nuon di ba?) BUT, it can’t be denied that this time, she looked like she was whining. She knew that the media was there to see and cover the whole thing, but she continued with the histrionics. The drama escalated, it didn’t taper down. She didn’t appear like she was in control. I can even dare say that she appeared like she’s gone ROCK BOTTOM. (Just look at her resigned but angry look when she finally emerged to deliver her statement.) And that is quite telling.
I agree with him. A president with a temper is nothing new, and it could even be argued that Filipino-style management seems to require a volcanic fury to get underlings to get things done. In itself, it is neither unpresidential or unseemly. She's displayed her temper before. But what was different was that the President displayed a different kind of anger altogether. Tempers are flaring. See The Geisha Diaries, and in Dumaguete, see village idiot savant. Though mercifully, the initial heat has given way to more sober reflection (see Techniquement, c'est art who responds to a previous entry of his). One blogger, the cat is out, simply puts forward her grim personal experience in the past:
years back - as i kid i had witnessed and live through the horror of war in mindanao. i have been a refugee in my own country. not everyone is lucky enough to live through it . but there will always be the scar: physical and emotional that will keep on reminding me/us..of the pain we have suffered. mindanao - the land of promise..or should i say broken promises..we are the bread basket of the phillipines, yet our people are hungry.. we are the only contiguous island the philippines has.. yet within, we are so divided in hearts and minds..year after year of conlficts have only produced military generals but not concrete resolutions to peace and development. not even a signed moa can end this violence i tell you.. i did not know how the war started back then...i do not know how it will end.
Today's Inquirer editorial looks at the recent conduct of MILF troops and raises a question: if the violence in Mindanao was perpetrated by rogue or lost commands of the MILF, how, then, can it be deemed capable of administering the proposed BJE? The editorial also points to this press statement by the MILF, while over at The PCIJ blog, Soliman Santos suggests the further radicalization of Moros if hostilities continue. He points to this commentary ("Reality Check" by Ibrahim Canana) that appeared on the MILF website (incidentally also validating my opinion concerning the importance of signing the agreement in the presence of representatives of foreign powers, including the OIC representative): it is a concise and lucid articulation of the Moro interpretation of their history and of the MILF position vis a vis the Philippine state. And it is uncompromising in its conclusion:
The political opposition to the MOA-AD that spurred the nationwide reaction against the MILF and the Bangsamoro people has dangerously transformed a peace process that is supposed to bring reconciliation to two peoples at war with each other into a grim scenario that allows no space for the Moros to have a breathing spell.
Through the MNLF, the Moros asked for a meaningful political autonomy in 1976. Instead they were granted a fake one by the GRP under the Marcos regime using the 1976 Tripoli Agreement which allowed constitutional processes to shortchange the Moros. In 1996, the Moros again under the MNLF demanded for meaningful political autonomy; and again what they were given in the so-called MNLF-GRP Final Peace Agreement (FPA) was the ARMM, which was created before the FPA and whose autonomy was clipped by the Philippine constitution. Inevitably, the ARMM ended up reduced to merely being an extension of the Office of the Philippine President. Later, it was even taken out of MNLF hands and became a political prize awarded to the Moro warlord most loyal and subservient to the sitting regime.
Now, under the MILF, the Moros want to recover whatever little is left of their ancestral domain and be given the chance to govern themselves as a sub-state entity within the larger Philippine nation-state. Peace on the basis of justice is about to be achieved under this formula. But even this does not sit well with the Filipino elite, the politicians, the Church and the Filipino colons in Mindanao. They have sabotaged the efforts of their own government. All, including those who claimed to be sympathetic to the plight of the Bangsamoro people like Senator Aquilino ‘Nene’ Pimentel, Jr., have ganged up against the Bangsamoro people to prevent them from even reclaiming areas which they now actually occupy and where they are the majority. The result: back to square one. Mindanao again is on the edge of an all-out war.
The selfishness of the Filipino ruling elite in general and the Filipino politicians in particular is dumbfounding. Their lack of sense of justice is appalling. They and their drumbeaters in the Philippine media can lie through their teeth and still have a nice sleep at night. Imagine telling the public the fantastic spin that Malaysia is arming the MILF and the Americans are behind the Moros’ desire to be an “independent Islamic State”. Why, they can’t even make sense of their allegations and lies! You can never find any mention of an “independent Islamic state” in the MOA-AD even if the pages were turned upside down. To even say that the Americans are behind the attempt by the MILF to create a “Bangsamoro Islamic State” is absurd. What fantasy! What ignorance! Hollywood hogwash has taken grip of the Filipino mind that it no longer knows what is real and what is imaginary. No wonder why the Philippine nation-state is moribund.
No wonder why tens of thousands of Filipinos are leaving this country for good. Now I can better appreciate the context of what Ustadz Salamat Hashim, the late MILF Amir, said when he stated that we should not believe the Filipino unbelievers even when they say that the crow is black!
What needs to be stated here for the record is that we Moros are not inclined to abandon our homeland to these vultures. We will fight for it as our ancestors fought for it. The mestizo leftovers of the Spaniards such as the likes of Teddy Locsin and Lobregat, and Filipino colons in Mindanao like Piñol as well as their capitalist patrons ensconced in Makati can go hang themselves from nearest lamp post for all we care. The Moros will fight. MILF Base Commander Ustadz Amirul Ombra Cato will not be alone. A war in Mindanao will drag down this pathetic, artificial country and its government to perdition. Perhaps this time we will no longer settle for a sub-state or a federative arrangement with the Filipinos. It’s useless anyway because they would never grant it. They would always insist this is ‘secession’ even if we do not have the intention to secede. So let’s give them a dose of their own medicine. Let’s aim for independence this time. For real. Like what the Algerians did when their clamor for autonomous rule was repeatedly and violently denied by the French colons. Given the Filipinos’ hostile attitude to anything Moro and Muslim, there is no other option left. This is now the reality facing us.
The mention of Algeria is signficant. It had been considered an integral part of France; de Gaulle, faced with a nationalist uprising, decided to abandon the French settlers and recognize Algeria's independence; at one point, the French armed forces tried to mount a coup against de Gaulle. Yet independence hasn't prevented the rise of Islamic extremism in Algeria. The problem is Arroyo is no de Gaulle. The frustration of the writer quoted above with suggestions the Americans are in league with the MILF (or that the MILF is being armed by the Malaysians, when obviously political and even financial support is plenty of help and there are many AFP members willing to sell arms to the MILF anyway) isn't about to change the mind of say, Tony Abaya (who says it boils down to the MILF being, in American eyes, more dependable than Christian leaders) or blogger Philippine Politics 04. And the thing is, if one presents a narrative, even a counter-narrative, it will never end (if Moros can assert they achieved a "higher plane" of political existence with the sultanates, then by any measure a republic trumps any hereditary principality in terms of political evolution) and be trumped, always by what wars always end up being about: real estate. In his column today, Manuel Buencamino points to the problem on focusing too much on the past as a justification for the present:

Why did the Arroyo administration agree to the MILF’s self-serving historical timeline?

Islam is no more indigenous than Christianity. The Spaniards were not our first colonizers. Luwaran, the MILF web site, does not deny that Moros are products of an earlier colonization:

“Ameen [secretary general of the MILF Central Committee] recalled that the history of the Moros and IPs [indigenous peoples] is one and inseparable, but noted that the former were always the ‘bigger brother’ while the latter [was] the ‘younger brother.’” Moros “have developed a higher plane of political existence” than lumads because they converted to Islam and adopted the sultanate system.

In that same Sona, Gloria Arroyo lamented that although Mindanao was a food basket, “it has some of the highest hunger in our nation.” For this sad state of affairs, she blamed “the endless Mindanao conflict.” Her solution to ending the endless conflict was to capitulate to the MILF.

Arroyo knows the BJE does not fit into the 1987 Constitution, so she asked Congress “to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office.”

Unfortunately, a “just and lasting peace” through a refitting of the BJE into our Constitution won’t be possible during or after her term of office.

There will be conflicts between the lumads and the MILF, between Christians and the MILF, between Manila and the MILF over jurisdiction, ownership of lands, mineral rights, natural resources and a host of other irritants that come from drawing lines on a map without regard for its inhabitants.

There will be power struggles among self-appointed Moro leaders—the Maranao-dominated MILF, the Tausog-dominated MNLF and the traditional politicians of Mindanao—over control of the BJE.

“Better talk than fight, if nothing of sovereign value is anyway lost,” counseled Gloria Arroyo in her Sona.

Unfortunately, talking nonsense will lead to loss not only of sovereign value but also, and more important, of property. And for that, most people will fight to the death.

For the Christian (Ilonggo) side, HabagatCentral Republic offers up a personal reflection buttressing Buencamino's insight:
There were cases of outright land grabbing from the ancestral domains of the Moros and Lumads who were then ignorant about the Western concept of “private property” as the lands were considered “communal” and for all people to share. Land grabbing that lead to land conflicts. Land conflicts that lead to bloodshed, my grandfather himself was a victim of this trechery. I have relatives in Mindanao who have hated the Moros. They are backward, backstabbers and barbarian. Di daw dapat sila pagkakatiwalaan. Di ko rin sila masisisi. They’ve seen their love ones slaughtered by the Moro raids of the towns especially during the 1970’s. The very foundation of Ilaga, a vigilante group composed of mostly Kristyanos and some Lumads, was borne out of reaction against the Moros. They sow terrorism in the hearts of the Moros as they kill them with reported cannibal activities. As a reaction, the Moros established their own vigilante group known as the Blackshirts/Barracudas. So the question, is terrorism a Moro problem? MNLF/MILF & AFP has instigated a somewhat revolutionary violence. The former is for the seperation of the Mindanao that they claim is rightfully theirs, and I understand them. They weren’t subjugated by the Spaniards and was never converted to Christianity as what they define as “Filipino.” They are fiercely independent and will fight for what is right. The latter on the other hand defends the Philippines and its sovereignity. Their causes are noble yet the effects to ordinary civilians were catastrophic. Casualties have reached over a hundred thousand for years of war with each other in Mindanao. No matter how noble their causes are, it is still somewhat politically-culturaly motivated. In the end, the civilians still suffer. In my opinion, I would still uphold MILF as a revolutionary movement still. Abu Sayyaff on the other hand is just pure banditry using Islam as an excuse to their savagery. The latter in my belief is the salot. The former on the other hand has still a handful of options to sit and talk what is necessary. For the betterment of their own peoples. Ewan ko lang pero parang hindi ko maiwasan na ibuntong ang sisi sa Pamahalaang Arroyo sa mga pangyayaring ito ngayon na muling gumigimbala sa kapayapaan ng Mindanao at Pilipinas. I went there several years ago and I was seeing optimism that finally, Mindanao can move on towards peace and progress. That the government is seating alongside with the rebels. But because of the sudden declaration of the signing of the Memo of Agreement for the Bangsamoro Judirical Entity, Mindanao was thrown into state of panic, may it be the Kristyanos, the Moros and even the Lumads. I’ve restrained myself from looking into other blogs of the Kristyanos and even of the Moros…Its really frustrating. Parang sumulpot muli ang inate hatred towards each other. I got frustrated with this notion but I couldn’t blame them why. I understand them. But is violence or war really the solution to ever-lasting peace in this island or in this country? Care to look at Palestine perhaps? You may have crushed the rebels but you haven’t ceased yet the root of struggle. Hanggang dahon at sanga lang…pero yung ugat di pa napapatay. Purging Moro ideals to the point of genocide is of murder, that is outright savagery! So what do we do then? How can we help to stop the vicious cycle. I was thinking then that this animosity of ours will be brought towards the end of human civilization. Ano kaya ang tamang solusyon sa Mindanao/Bangsamoro Problem? Ridu rin ba kaya o ubusan ng lahi?
As far as making sense of events, As blogger smoke asks what many are asking: was the President even thinking?
The thing is this - the President’s men (and therefore the President herself) dangled the idea of the BJE in front of the bandits and sold themselves on the idea that it would work. This played them right into the bandit’s hands: by putting all their eggs in the BJE basket, the President’s men gave the bandits the opportunity to set up an ultimatum - give us the BJE or we start shooting again. When the BJE was scuttled the bandits got their casus belli. Now admittedly its a flimsy rationale for the resumption of hostilities, but it is just solid enough to rile up the cannon-fodder and convince them that they’ve been shafted and therefore need to avenge their slighted pride. It’s Moro psychology 101, if anyone had bothered to check. And that’s the point: the Commander-in-Chief is supposed to be able to take in the whole picture; to understand how various factors all contribute to the outcome. In this case, because the President’s men were allowed - perhaps even encouraged - to formulate a do-or-die solution, it is clear that there were critical factors that were ignored, not the least of which is the very well known tendency of Moros to exaggerate insults to their pride. In hostage negotiation, one of the most basic lessons is to never say no to the hostage taker. But then again, this also covers situations where saying ‘yes’ sets you up to say ‘no’ later. Let me clarify: by saying yes to the idea of a BJE, the President’s men were committing to an outcome that was not in their control. It was stupid for them to imagine that the BJE would slip through unnoticed. More to the point, the President’s men simply failed to anticipate a negative outcome, i.e., the BJE would be challenged and stopped. So, by saying yes, to the BJE, they were blindly rushing into a future where - when the Supreme Court invalidates the MOA for instance - they would have no choice but to say no to the BJE. And there you go, they said NO to the hostage taker. This turn of events led the hostage taker - the bandits - to now feel backed into a corner. The only way out of that corner would have been a MOA for the BJE. But with no MOA forthcoming, and the additional insult of the ARMM elections being conducted, the bandits embraced the belief that there would be no other solution than to come out with their guns blazing. No solutions. War.
But using Occam's razon, blogger Tongue In, Anew returns to the blogosphere and puts forward this thought-provoking analysis of the situation: it was all, and remains, simple, really. According to the blogger (who, while anonymous, has had very interesting entries in the past, suggesting an individual who is plugged-in), it's all a charade:
Assperon's appointment to the Peace portfolio was suspect way back... Not to mention the Ass was then joiningGen. Boogie Mendoza, a former Razon protege, and an "acclaimed anti-terrorist expert"... On the other side of the fence, a separatist front of freedom fighters on Mondays, Abu Sayyaf kidnappers on Tuesdays, Jemaah Islamiya trainees on Wednesdays, lost command on Thursdays, devout Muslims on Fridays, and plain farmers and merchants on weekends. Overseen by their provisions suppliers from Malaysia. Now what do we have? A highly volatile cocktail made up of an administration struggling for perpetual survival, high-profile GWOT freaks looking for an opportunity to expand their military control and a wayward army of bandits all of them intelligent enough to know that peace was doomed in the first place but insist that they might just be able to pull it through. No, Gloria didn't plan to dismember the country via the MOA-AD, she knows it's unconstitutional, luckily, the legit opposition saw through her, she even had to use her allies to petition for a TRO which her SC appointees readily obliged to. She was expecting widespread retaliation but the MILF hierarchy surprisingly held back, her emergency rule cannot be imposed! No martial law, no chacha either. Doom! The Ass' loyal generals immediately had to scramble for the "Lost Commanders" Kato and Bravo who have been burning villages left and right in the past yet no sincere effort to bring them to justice was ever taken (You now have an idea why Kabalu insists these commanders were not ordered by MILF to do so). They needed them to jump start this stage of the war to put Plan B into action. Funny but Eid Kabalu hasn't announced an all-out offensive yet. Nor has Puno and Teodoro. Who wants to really finish the war after all? Even Misuari's MNLF are now wearing their old uniforms to defend their own territory. Against whom? The gov't? MILF? Or the Lost Command? Gloria's "Defend every inch of the territory" spiel was predictably looking for just the right moment to be announced so she blew her top after finding out her staff had not even prepared the teleprompter.
This view puts forward the possibility that the administration wanted to maneuver the country into a situation permitting a state of emergency, while others in the military hierarchy quite possibly, refrained from cooperating fully, and the MILF command declined to do the government any favors. Offering a reward, accompanied by statements that only individuals, and not the entire MILF movement, will be deemed outlaws, provides an opening for tensions to subside. And all the while, the jitters continue. Blogging from Iligan City, preMEDitated recounted, yesterday:
Panic struck the city center earlier this night. People flocked to the City Hall for protection by military forces stationed there. Text messages soon followed warning of imminent MILF attacks. Much of the rest of the populace is now in anticipatory mood. General Luna of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has issued his statement for the populace to remain calm and to trust in them. He has also appealed to the citizens not to forward these messages as they only bring more harm than good. PS I just heard this piece of news. It seems that this incident was sparked by a drunk who shouted,”M-I*.” *A word used around here for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) terrorists.
See also My Life, also writing on Tuesday:
Early tonight many people got panic because of that rumors that there were sightings of MILF in Iligan City. My family and neighbors freak out because they said that MILF are already in the near barangay Abuno and a lot of jeepneys from the City went back when they reached Tubod Bridge, going to south because they said that MILF is on the way. Many people were on the city streets because they wanted to evacuate. And this is confirm as a false alarm by our city mayor Lawrence Lluch Cruz, that is was just the soldiers that was seen and they thought that they are MILF. He said that there are many soldiers around the city that some mistaken them as MILF already maybe its because of the happenings in Lanao del Norte. He just stated on a news break at ABS - CBN that Iligan City is still safe from MILF and asking those who left their homes to go back already. I hope all this conflict will stop soon.
From Dipolog City, jOnAviE's Site writes (today),
M.I.L.F or Moro Islamic Liberation Front is on war against Arm Forces of Philippines..As a girl who lives Mindanao (a place where there are many Muslim, but I am not one of them) it's usual to hear news that Mindanao was that, was this, but you know August 2008 War was the only war that makes my province Zamboanga del Norte and my City, Dipolog to be afraid... Afraid because the whole Mindanao was really involve, the MILF want all the regions in Mindanao to be included in MOA or ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) to expand their teritory... Everybody was really panicking.. Even in my city, we receive Bomb Treats and War Rumors, and what did we did..? We packed up our things then really really get ready for what would happen. Last night we sleep at 1 a.m. because of it..
Returning to Tongue in Anew's suggestion that the Palace was operating on simple assumptions -that it's hands would be tied by predictable behavior on the part of the opposition and the MILF, which didn't pan out as the former was caught napping and the latter more subtle and cunning than expected. So it strikes me as possible there was a clumsy effort to promote war jitters to try to get the country to rally around the President: because it explains why the Palace proved so tolerant of the demagoguery of Pinol, etc. who, considering the administration's intolerance for dissent, could easily have been slapped down, taken aside, or simply bribed to pipe down at a delicate time when the administration was claiming to be seriously behind the RP-MILF agreement. What complicates the situation is that the public, unaware of the plots-within-plots on both sides, or the factions that exist within the ranks of the leadership of both sides, or that the leaders either do not believe their own propaganda, or worse, believe it- has its passions inflamed by the increasingly martial rhetoric of leaders who know the game of posturing quite well and who can therefore discount it. Certainly this seems too quick a surrender: MOA deal off, SolGen tells high tribunal. And it may be that this time, the MILF leadership, beholden to Malaysia, etc., is being more responsible and trying to defuse the situation while saber-rattling, than the government: we forget that the MILF command had a choice to fully endorse the attacks but it did not, equivocating its official response might have been (but even equivocation is understandable in terms of the factional dynamics of any revolutionary organization). And other groups are trying to restore the momentum to reestablish at least the semblance of a brittle peace. At the heart of these efforts are three simple ideas: 1. That if one side will insist that it is negotiating sincerely for peace, there must be a corresponding assumption the other side is also negotiating sincerely. That furthermore, national interests aside, it is in the regional interest of foreign countries to help foster peace in Mindanao. 2. That all lose when fighting resumes and all sides gain so long as discussions are ongoing, which provides a venue for differences to be threshed out, compromises arrived at, and a consensus reached. 3. That both sides have extremists who not only do not represent the majority view, but who have also figured out how their constituencies can be agitated by withholding information and an overall lack of confidence in the authorities. As Earthly Explorations puts it (who is not for a separate Moro homeland),
The government is trying to make it appear as it was the Moro rebels fault that they hit the first strike but if you hear other sources especially the locals they were just protecting their properties. Who was taking what from whom? Or someone is maneuvering into something to make it appear as a religious war diverting the people's attention?
Mon Casiple warned of the administration "playing the emergency card":
The scenario is one where a justification for a state of emergency happens. Violent incidents increasingly happen and spread. The AFP is increasingly forced to defend towns and villages. The MILF, in turn, increasingly turn to its own offensives in order to defend Moro communities. In no time at all, we are into a deepened conflict until the military is convinced to agree to a declaration of a state of emergency. For a national state of emergency to happen, there has to be demonstrated to exist a credible threat to the national seat of power in the National Capital Region, a nationwide state of war or terror, or attacks on national political leaders. The level of the resurgent conflict in Mindanao–even if it spreads to other areas in Mindanao–cannot yet justify this drastic option. However, the next days or weeks bear watching because of the political scenario of charter change that requires neutralizing the opposition and terrorizing the people. With the recent show of widespread opposition to Malacañang’s charter change plans, only the emergency card is left to play. Let us hope that desperate people do not cross the line of sanity.
Beyond hoping, this is a time to add your voice, not in endorsement of one particular proposal or another, but to voices opposed to conflict. Charo Logarta, a military wife, puts it this way:
Whatever it is, there’s gotta be a better option to this. The majority must be allowed peace and harmony. We have to end decades of strife and conflict. We, the majority, deserve better. Military wives and kids do not have to endure loss. Soldiers don’t have to die for causes that don’t even matter to many average Filipinos who simply want a better life.
Just think how optimistic most people were in Mindanao a year ago. And how, now, plans involving Mindanao are all on hold. See Stacy Nelson.

Blowback and crying havoc

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Watch this video O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am meek and gentle with these butchers! Thou art the ruins of the noblest man That ever lived in the tide of times. Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood! Over thy wounds now do I prophesy,- Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips, To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue- A curse shall light upon the limbs of men; Domestic fury and fierce civil strife Shall cumber all the parts of Italy; Blood and destruction shall be so in use And dreadful objects so familiar That mothers shall but smile when they behold Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war; All pity choked with custom of fell deeds: And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge, With Ate by his side come hot from hell, Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war; That this foul deed shall smell above the earth With carrion men, groaning for burial. -Shakespeare, Julius Caesar Adel Tamano argues that,
In my view, the fatal flaw in the whole process of creating the MOA - even going beyond the constitutional issues and whether or not it was negotiated by the government in bad faith – is that the MOA was crafted in the shadows beyond the pale of public discussion and debate.
Which reflects the consensus, I suppose, on where the administration went wrong; but I am not convinced a hundred years of consultations or any administration expending political capital would get either side to budge. There are times when things just sort of fall into a kind of balance, uneasy at first, but which gradually becomes second nature and hence, while unofficial, semipermanent. This is the problem now; this where things had been for some years now, accounting, in large part, for both the sense of optimism until last year, in Christian Mindanao, and the gradual appearance of Moros in other parts of the country, where they began to engage in trade and even start setting down roots. The focus of political attention was first, the Supreme Court and then, after several days' avoiding the limelight, the return of the telltale sign of presidential tension, a bum stomach on Friday (but by Saturday, the President made an appearance in Pampanga to pitch constitutional amendments while the Deputy Spokesman denied what the Presidential Spokesman had confirmed the day before). Apropos of the Supreme Court, blogging At Midfield, veteran journalist Ding Gagelonia boiled down the high court's options to three:
First: The High Court will lift the TRO and toss out the petitions as premature given that the agreement has not been signed and that no actually illegal act has been committed, thus allowing the signing of the MoA-AD to proceed but with a caveat that it be immediately renegotiated; Second: The Supreme Court will replace the TRO with a preliminary injunction stopping the MoA-AD altogether; Third: The Court will toss the issue back to the Executive Department effectively removing the TRO on the ground that it is a political question, allowing the MoA to be signed after renegotiations.
The Inquirer editorial last Sunday pointed out, however, that it was a mistake to read to much into what some Justices vis a vis other Justices said during oral arguments. I have heard it said that the high court would rule as the President wished; and it may be that even as the President and the Justices wrestled with that dilemma, another presented itself. Which is, that even as the President was summoning her political troops to pursue another constitututional amendments offensive, her military troops were chomping at the bit in fury over the RP-MILF deal (I've heard it suggested by a retired senior officer, that the copies of the agreement obtained by media were leaked from Camp Aguinaldo). Last Friday (August 15), ABC5 reporter Jove Francisco recounted in his blog, how the President made herself scarce, opting to huddle with officials:
The President may have opted to stay mostly inside the palace these past few days, but she’s been quite busy meeting with lawmakers, cabinet officials and LGU officials, too. Their SUVs parked just outside the New Executive Building betrayed the supposed intent to make the meetings low key and under the media’s radar. (Some see this as a consolidation of forces at a time that there are moves to amend the constitution, especially because congressmen and local leaders have key roles in the whole process.) I had to instruct my team to stake out in Laurel Street to monitor the President (if ever she’ll go out of the complex) and her visitors who come in and out of the gates. (To the chagrin of PSG members guarding the gates. But what can we do? Limited coverage or access to our subject just makes us more creative in thinking of ways to do our job... The last time we saw PGMA was last Tuesday. The day that she convened her cabinet and when the Timor Leste leader went to Malacanang for a state visit. She was in red and she looked angry, if you ask me.
That was the day the Palace went Great Guns in favor of constitutional amendments, and (on that same day) in her blog, veteran reporter Ellen Tordesillas argued,
Remember four days before the Sona, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front pulled out the talks in Kuala Lumpur when the government bactracked from its earlier commitment of holding the plebiscite in the more than 700 barangays that would be included in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity aside from the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao? On the eve of the Sona, former Armed Forces chief Hermogenes Esperon, now presidential adviser on peace process, announced a “breakthrough” that enabled Arroyo to announce in her Sona “Last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved.” An source close to the peace talks said the “breakthrough” was nothing more than the government agreeing to the demands of the MILF. Which makes one wonder why did they try to backtrack in the first place? The source said the government really had no intention to sign the agreement but they want to maintain the hypocrisy in front of the MILF and other countries involved in the peace talks. The “Supreme Court scenario” was part of the plan. Actually, the source said the government was hoping that the opposition would bring the issue to the Supreme Court. But the opposition was slow in reacting... With the suspension of the signing of the MOA, the government was expecting the MILF to attack communities to justify Arroyo’s declaration of a state of emergency. But the MILF didn’t. The source said the MILF occupation of the barangays in Pikit and Midsayap which was reported by Piñol and the military didn’t happen after the MOA signing was aborted in KL on Aug,. 5. As Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said in the press conference where they issued a 24 hour ultimatum for the MILF to withdraw, the rebels were there some two months before. “The MILF-and the Christians in the area have co-existed peacefully,” the source said. Apparently, the MILF sense Malacañang’s ploy of making them the excuse for inciting hostilities to justify Arroyo’s emergency rule that could lead to her staying in power beyond 2010. They are not taking the bait. Instead of engaging in an all-out war with government forces, they opted for “repositioning” of the forces under one its most loyal commander, Ombra Kato. Without a full-blown war in Mindanao and time running out for her, Arroyo has to crank up her Cha-Cha train. But with Cha-Cha, she may yet cause in a bigger scale, turmoil she has wished in Muslim Mndanao.
(The day before, or last Friday, Tony Abaya in his column echoed a similar though not identical line on the government and its Mindanao strategy) Then last Saturday (August 16), blogging At Midfield, Ding Gagelonia revealed that sources had told him that the result of all the Palace huddles was that the deal's a goner:
This writer has just confirmed from several highly placed sources that the deal to give the MILF a sovereignty-clothed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is off, in the present form that It is configured in the initialed, but unsigned,Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD). This writer’s sources said the move “to renegotiate” the MoA-AD was first admitted during yesterday’s in-chamber meeting of the high tribunal justices with lawyers of the oppositors and the government’s representatives.
The Palace let loose a trial balloon to see how the MILF and those emotionally and politically invested in supporting the Palace's push for the RP-MILF agreement would react: the reaction was lukewarm, to put it positively: MILF silent on 'NGO-led peace talks' We have to consider the possibility that at this point, a cleavage might have occurred within the ranks of the MILF, between those still clinging to the hope the Palace would pursue the agreement, and those saying "we told you so, they've always been faithless, let us resume hostilities" camp. On that same day, as per Moroland's Weblog, the theological basis for resistance in case the Supreme Court invalidated the agreement:
With the outbreak of hostilities between the AFP-PNP and MILF forces in Cotabato, its impact on the GRP-MILF MOA is still uncertain. Lawyer members of the MILF Negotiating Panel told Luwaran: “The situation created by the outbreak of hostilities does not result from a breach invoked by the parties.”

Nor is it because of withdrawal from the MOA or any prior agreements between GRP and MILF. The stumbling block is the so-called “politics of law”. They said that Supreme Court is a “nonmajoritarian institution” for its legitimacy rest elsewhere than to implement the will of the people. Asked if people should be worried they said the specter of instability still haunts Mindanao (and) will not go away so long injustices and serious grievances of the Bangsamoro people are not addressed.

Even the moderates will have little reason then to warm up to the mindset of Supreme Court justices. Given that the TRO is set for oral argument before the Supreme Court yesterday August 15, for the MILF and Government negotiators two questions linger. What has sparked the outburst? And what can be done about it? MILF leaders are in no doubt as to the true reasons for the outburst spawned by the abortion of the signing of the MOA-AD.

Asked to comment, Muslim religious scholars (ulama) have issued this terse admonition: “Power without an attributable source causes unease. Solons are making a big mistake to rush in only to preempt the collective prerogatives of the Bangsamoro people.” The ulama described the “angry mood” of Senator Mar Roxas seen on TV footage and so, they said, the motive is suspect. Taunting the former senate president, Khaled Musa says Frank Drilon has joined the petition to intervene in the TRO losing his statesman bearing to the call, all of a sudden, of his Ilonggo forebears.

The oral argument on MOA-AD before the Supreme Court throws into question powers not yet derived immediately from the principle of ‘advise and consent’ of the Senate, warns lawyer Datu Michael O. Mastura. Most serious still, according to Mastura, a former congressman, Senators Roxas and Drilon are inclined “to drag the Puno Court whose policy is judicial activism into the politics of law.”

On Saturday, too, the Communist Party of the Philippines, for its part, in a statement, came out foursquare in support of secession, and confirming that indeed, there is an alliance between the MILF and CPP-NPA:
The MILF and the Bangsamoro are left with no other choice but to advance their revolutionary armed struggle to realize their right to national self-determination and the return of their homeland. At the same time, there is a need to heighten political work among the people in the affected areas as well as throughout the country in order to advance the understanding of the just and legitimate cause of the Bangsamoro struggle. Aside from struggling against the same basic problems suffered by the rest of the Filipino people, the Bangsamoro revolutionary forces have to struggle against the added particular burden of national oppression and chauvinism imposed on them by the rotten ruling system in the country. To be able to attain genuine full autonomy, they also need a contiguous restoration of their historic homeland snatched from them by oppressors. The Communist Party of the Philippines calls on the revolutionary forces under its leadership to give full support to the struggle of the Bangsamoro for national self-determination and the return of their ancestral lands. All the more should the national-democratic revolutionary movement and the Bangsamoro revolutionary movement unite, deepen mutual understanding and heighten cooperation to advance their common and particular struggles against the same enemies--the US-Arroyo regime and the entire rotten, reactionary and oppressive semicolonial and semifeudal system prevailing throughout the country. The CPP instructs the New People's Army throughout the country to intensify tactical offensives against the fascist armed forces as a concrete step to support the resumption of the revolutionary armed struggle of the Bangsamoro as well as to take advantage of the present preoccupation of the enemy forces in fending off the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.
The blowback came soon enough. On Saturday night, Bomb goes off near house of N. Cotabato vice gov's brod. On Sunday (August 17) the breaking news came thick and fast: ambushes, bombings, maneuverings, hostage-takings. See this Monday (August 18) report: Moro rebels attack Mindanao villages. Earlier, on August 17, Blogger Tiklaton, a student at Mindanao State University in Iligan City (where, according to the MILF, critics to the deal have mercenary motives), had this to say:
I never realized how serious the situation right now about bomb scares here in my place until I heard a news about the bombing here in our city not so long ago. It was after when me and my sisters came out from the church to go to Gaisano Mall and saw that all people were hurriedly walking away from the mall. We were curious. We want to find answers so we listened to some adults chatting about what happened. We listened and realized that the bomb scare in Iligan was not any more a scare but a reality. Now it's serious! There were two bombs exploded in the city. Are there dead? HHmmm..I'm not yet sure. But there were hurt. They were rushed to the hospital for medications and safety. I just can't tell you how many of them were affected or victimized by that bombing. (What mom?.. ... more than 10?), ooohh, my mother just told me now that there were more than ten that was hurt. Oh no! Now it's serious. It's really serious! God help us! Protect us from harm and keep us away from danger! Bless all those bombers and I hope you will continue touching their hearts! Keep us safe! We believe in you God!
On August 18, Tiklaton then blogged,
It was this afternoon when our mayor announced that the classestomorrow for all levels here in our place is suspended due to the present "unkind" commmotion happening. The said commotion started yesterday when to bombs exploded in two lounging houses here in Iligan. In addition, it was early this dawn when some neighboring municipalities of Iligan City were invaded by some MILF. The dark dawn a while ago has become even darker when some families were killed and some were evacuated away from the danger zone. The main roads connecting some parts of Mindanano passing through Lanao del Norte were temporarily closed because of the unsafe situation. Since Iligan is also included in the threat because of that bomb yesterday and has become one of the evacuating places for a number of people from the affected municipalities, Iligan City was announced to be under the state of calamity. Calamity not by nature but calamity brought by man! So because of that, a curfew starting tonight from 10PM to 5AM was imposed to ensure safety for all. Right at this very moment, it's still quiet. I just don't know what will happen tomorrow. I'll just hope for the best and safety for everybody through prayers. I think that would be just the simple way I could do now.
See doctor-blogger preMEDitated about text messages (bearing rumors and from officials) in Iligan. The Stylus Master, originally from that city, reported on his family members' situation:
We immediately contacted our family, friends, and relatives there. And true enough, the city is in a state of calamity. All the family are huddled together in my grandmother's house, and they're calling the other relatives to come over to hide there. My brother's family is also packing their things to evacuate their area.
He then put forward a reaction to the MILF's arguing hostilities were being undertaken by a "lost command":
The upper heirachy of the MILF explained that the ones causing the trouble are "lost command" MILF groups, and that they have no control over them. That's just terrible, and a cause for fear. And it's ONE GOOD REASON to scrap their deal in the first place. Cause if they can't control their own people, who's to guarantee that they can control them if the deal is pushed through?
The MILF had tried to establish plausible deniability: MILF: Lanao del Sur ambush may be handiwork of 3rd party. (As for the MILF, for its updates and its opinion on what's going on, see its official website,Luwaran.com) but in terms of public opinion, this may have backfired. Another blogger, smoke puts it this way, in reaction to the "lost command" argument: "Enough talking already." Blogger Jherskie puts it in stronger terms. In Notes of Marichu C. Lambino, the lawyer-blogger zeroes in on the MILF's dilemma: the attacks that took place violated the agreement with the government brokered by the Malaysians in 2001. So it has to say subordinates acted without authorization. Danton Remoto reported as follows on Sunday, concerning Lanao del Norte:
My campaign team in Lanao del Norte just texted that they are fleeing because the MILF took over their towns this morning. More than 20,000 people have fled. Some are taking their bancas to cross over from Lanao del Norte to Ozamiz City, on the other side of Northern Mindanao. Iligan City is on red alert. Fr. Regie Quijano of Kulambugan town has been killed by the MILF. Fr. Regie is a friend of our cause -- human rights for all Filipinos, including LGBTs, and justice and peace for Mindanao. We should mourn his passing and pray for his soul.
Blogger Thoughts Encoded publishes this:
Update as of August 18,2008 9:34am 6 Priests and a couple of civilians were taken hostage by the MILF rebels. Their status is still uknown. Arsons and massacres are happening now in Kauswagan, Lanao Del Norte.
Blogger nydrad, whose family is from Lanao del Norte, hopes peace will be restored:
my trip on lanao del norte, mindanao, our province, would not be pursued anymore on friday, i think, to think that my mom already bought us a ticket... with the MILF attacking our province, with my so much surprise, that to i think it was far away from north cotabato... just earlier this morning, Iligan City and Kolambangan, was attacked! bomb explosion there, killing there, what a chaos! i have many relatives there! and my mom is now worried, kept on calling my lola on what was their situation there, and from what i heard now, the way on our home there, was closed already, and my lola and tito badi's [my mom's brother]family, have been evacuated by army's now... im restless... especially watching the news now... the army have already declared an war on MILF! i don't want to think of the worse, but i kept on thinking the "IF's" oh, pls. pray for the peace in mindanao now, this won't do any good...
And yet, in Katapagan (another town in Lanao del Norte),as recounted by Plan B on Monday morning:
well the milf (moro islamic liberation front) forces are inching towards kapatagan this evening. all the male residents were called to a meeting to discuss the events of the day and to prepare them for the coming violence and troubles ahead. in many ways it is good my family is here in manila instead of there. in other ways it is REAL GOOD we didn't go there last week to visit, otherwise we would be stuck in the south. all modes of transportation have been cut off and discontinued. the concern right now is with family and friends down there, who are unable to leave. this is an uneasy night, no one will be able to sleep well at all. despite the troubling events of this evening, my aunt and uncles still got together to chat and spend time together. these events are unfortunately, common, in the town where my family is from (lanao del norte). that is why I haven't been able to go home in more than 25 years. we had a mini family reunion even though our hearts are heavy with concern and fear.
See also, A Girl's Notebook and fall for you, for a glimpse of how young people both outside and in the area, are reacting to the news. As for the President, Arroyo: ‘Defend every inch of Philippine territory’ came the pronunciamiento, letting slip the dogs of war. The MILF beat a tactical retreat: MILF orders pullout of rebels in Lanao Norte towns (as of today, August 18). Those interested in building a peace constituency are now faced with the reality that a military offensive is popular, nationwide, and with public confidence in the President shaken as it is, she will have to out-do Estrada and not rein in the armed forces. Blogger Blog@AWBHoldings.com, takes to task Bong Montesa's scenario-building, taking Montesa's "game tree" which you've seen before, and amending it: And also disagreeing with Montesa's promotion of the BangsaMoro as a First Nation. Montesa had argued,
If the Bangsamoro people is indeed a First Nation, a people unto themselves who are distinct from the rest of the national communities, then it is logical that the Bangsamoro people possess inherent and unequivocal rights which are demandable from the Philippine State, irrespective of whether these rights are found in the Philippine Constitution or not. In fact, it is imperative that if these rights are not found or protected in the Philippine Constitution that the Philippine State should initiate a process to entrench these rights. If the “rules” of the game do not, at present, allow these rights, then “new rules” must be put in place. This, as I have already stated, is the essence of peace talks - negotiating for “new rules”, to change the present “rules”. If one accepts the statement that the Bangsamoro people is a “distinct people” and a “First Nation” then it follows that they have the following basic rights: 1. The right to self-determination. 2. The right to freely determine their political status. 3. The right to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. 4. The right to freely dispose their natural wealth and resources. 5. The right not to be deprived of its own means of subsistence. The MOA is nothing but the explicitation, the articulation, and the enfleshing of the basic rights mentioned above. The MOA is the operationalization of the inherent right to self-determination. Of course, if one does not agree with this first principle and foundation, then we will have divergent opinion on the MOA on AD and more. We should always respect our differences but we must try to understand where we differ and I think most of our disagreements stem from our disagreement with this first principle and foundation.
While blogger AWBHoldings.com explained why he's unimpressed (and possibly, resentful):
...how I wish he posted his proofs, not what-ifs. The problem with his First Nation is that many will dispute the notion - some will say the lumads comprise the First Nation, etc. And lastly - he is being pretentious if he thinks the MILF represents the entire people of Mindanao. The fact that there are Mindanaoans who are opposing the MoA AD belies his illusion. He, together with the Arroyo Administration panel, should have first consulted all stakeholders before shoving the country in a corner. The fact that he called most reactions are emotional speaks of his short-sightedness and tunnel vision. His ignorance of the total picture of the Mindanao situation has actually EXACERBATED the tension instead of easing it. I am all for peace, but at what cost? The comparison between the MoA AD and Chamberlain’s capitulation at Munich is somewhat apt - we will not have peace and we will have war. That is the cost of peace that Mr. Montesa and the likes want to impose on us.
This is actually something all-to-familiar, in terms of otherwise sincere proponents of peace and reform, who then get so emotionally engaged in achieving their dream, that they remain blind to the Faustian Bargain that made it possible. Instead, they not only get nothing, but set their own cause back, as they have become identified with the President. Jose Abueva learned this, and bitterly acknowledged it on my show; Bong Montesa and others are experiencing it, now. Meanwhile, from August 19-21, Mindanao, Palawan Lumads to Gather in Oro to Discuss GRP-MILF Ancestral Land Deal. Blogger bits and pieces says that if anyone can claim First Nation status, it's the lumads; but the proper context is our evolution as present-day Filipinos:
For me it’s not a matter of being the Christians or Muslims governing Mindanao. Let us think of our history. Let us trace back our heritage. We were not the Muslim or Christian that branded us today. We were the lumads. we were the same indigenous people. We were the same people long way before Islam and Christianity came into our land. Yes, you are a Muslim or a believer in Christ today, but you were the same people who worshiped the moon yesterday. Mindanao, so to speak, is our ancestral domain whether you are a Christian, a lumad or a Muslim. Christians do not own Mindanao. Muslim too. Even the lumads. It’s all ours.
Meanwhile, some responses to my recent column, and the immediate past entry on this blog, concerning foreign interests in Mindanao. First, from Scriptorium:
I wish to mention the 2 other geopolitical currents that are relevant to the issue: the present pan-Islamic Reformation, and the accelerating retreat of Western power.
(On a note related to the above, David Kaiser, historian and blogger at History Unfolding, proposes that the world is entering a period of instability reminiscent of the 1930's) And from the nutbox, also responding to my putting forward that Malaysia's motivated by dreams of a "Greater Malaysia":
That this “Greater Malaysian Federation” will make for “a large, extremely wealthy, country” is, I think, an understatement. I believe it would be a dominant regional power in this part of the world. This regional power would control the sea lanes where oil exports from the Middle East to China, Northeast Asia and the United States pass through; as well as the potential oil and gas reserves of Sulu Sea and Liguasan Marsh. Should this regional power assertively claim more lands in Mindanao, the Philippines would be defenseless. And this regional power, by the way, would be against the United States. Which is why I agree with Quezon when he said that among the priorities of the United States in the Mindanao conflict is containing Malaysia. Of course, as I have said in my previous post, the Americans have their own designs in Mindanao too. But these designs stand in the way of Kuala Lumpur’s. This is why the Malaysians have consistently rejected the idea of the United States being part of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), which, in turn, is the reason why Washington had to resort to using the United States Institute of Peace to work in Mindanao and Sulu for its interests.
and from Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. And on an earlier piece, from Strengtheners Headquarters Domain. With regards to the domestic consequences of all this: the Palace declaration of All Systems Go for constitutional amendments; the President putting herself behind a military offensive in Mindanao, and so on, I don't know if I can be as optimistic as Mon Casiple:
The Malacañang ploy of endorsing the Pimentel resolution on federalism backfired and earned for its pains a resurgent anti-Cha-cha movement. This particular poison called “extension of GMA stay-in-power” has now fatally affected three current major national initiatives, one after the other: political settlement with the MILF through MOA-AD, federalism through the Pimentel resolution, and charter change through a constituent assembly. Whatever the merits of these initiatives, proponents should admit that these are now politically dead where they stand–the killing bolt shot from the bolt of widespread public resistance. It is now time to go back to the drawing board. However, the one lesson learned is that the people will not support nor tolerate any major national initiative or policy that is perceived to be in aid of GMA’s continued occupation of Malacañang beyond 2010.
It ain't over until it's over. As recently as the State of the Nation Address, when I immediately pointed out the President had opened a Pandora's Box by announcing an Ancestral Domain agreement and giving the go-ahead for constitutional change, foreign and domestic colleagues were dismissive, skeptical, or more focused on other things. Her motto could well be: try, there is no fail. Watch this video: Update, August 19: Bob Martin gives a report from the ground and hopes things stop inching towards Davao City:
Last week, whenFeyma and I went to Digos, as I reported in my post about Pomelo, on our way home to Davao, we saw a LOT of Army vehicles, including armored vehicles moving toward North Cotabato. The skirmishes there were quite real, believe me. This past weekend there was more action. On Sunday, Iligan City experienced three bombings, one of which was in a hotel there. There were plenty of injuries there due to the bombings. A lot of people are speculating that MILF people perpetrated these bombings. Yesterday (Monday) was a big day, though. Many attacks happened all around Lanao del Norte Province, including in Iligan City. Seven farmers were killed in cold blood by MILF, six other civilians, and seven Army personnel. President Arroyo addressed the Nation on TV at mid-day and said the the actions of the MILF were tantamount to a declaration of war inMindanao. In addition, MILF rebels attacked Maasim town in Sarangani Province. I have been to each of these places that came under attack, and have visited each of the places multiple times, so I am quite familiar with not only Maasim, but the areas in Lanao del Norte that were attacked as well. For their part, the MILF spokesman stated that the attacks were not “sanctioned” by the MILF. At the same time, though, the MILF leadership ordered their people to stop the attacks. By making this order, it would seem that the MILF is admitting that it is their people who are behind these horrid actions. This means that either the MILF sanctioned the attacks, or that they do not have control over their people. No matter which is the reason, should the GRP be negotiating with the MILF if they can’t even control their own people? Giving away part of Mindanao to these people? What is the MILF giving in return. Supposedly, the MILF is giving peace to the government, but what we are seeing right now is not peace, you can be certain of that. I have a lot of very good friends in Iligan, and I wish them nothing but the best. I hope that they and their families remain safe, and that nobody is injured or killed. So far, I consider Davao to be very safe. But, some of these things (particularly the problems in North Cotabato) are getting close to the City. I have a lot of confidence in Mayor Duterte, though, and if anybody can keep the city safe, Mayor Duterte is the one. Right now, I have no reason to think about leaving the area, and I doubt that it would come to that. But, things are getting somewhat worrisome for the area, and hopefully things can be calmed before things flare up any further.
Blogger Placeholder asks, if it must be war, are those who led us down the path to war, the same ones who should prosecute it? He makes an apt comparison with how the British dispensed with Neville Chamberlain:
  1. Those responsible for getting us into this predicament cannot be the same ones to lead us out of it. At the very least, no one deserves to die just to further their agenda. In the UK, for example,Neville Chamberlain had to be replaced byWinston Churchill.
  2. Related to this, we need to strengthen the Philippine Military by purging it of officers who acted as hired bodyguards of the present leadership and reinstate those who embody its true ideals and know how to fight.
  3. Instead of relying on private armies, vigilante groups, all those fighting on the government side should be regularized. This is to prevent the problem of having to deal with private warlord armies in the aftermath.
  4. Any conflict would not be isolated to Mindanao, so prepare for a general mobilization. Considerconscription.
  5. My fellow bloggers seem to be confident that the MILF does not represent the Muslim people and are no more than bandits. I'm not so sure but even granting that premise, the conduct of the war should be such that we take care not to make this a generalized Christian vs. Muslim conflict. It will be difficult to do this once bombs start going off in Manila, but the Government, Media and Civil Society groups (Secular, Christian and Muslim) should prepare for this. If necessary, laws againstHate Speech must be promulgated.
I agree.

Greater Malaysia

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On The Explainer last Tuesday (which you can watch online on YouTube) I presented a series of maps based, in turn, on maps you've already seen on previous entries, to argue along the lines of there being a basis for the territorial claims of the Moros. At the same time, looking at the past basis for today's territorial claims also runs smack into the reality on the ground. Starting with the present ARMM: Then showing the areas proposed for inclusion by plebiscite next year: And including areas proposed for inclusion by plebiscite in 25 years: You get an idea of the (officially stated, and demarcated, anyway) claims of the MILF on behalf of all Moros. And then comparing the total area with the historical extent of the Sultanate of Sulu, and the Blumentritt map, etc.: The area seems to match almost exactly. But the problem lies in that area overlapping territory that is now dominated by non-Moro ethnic groups: Add to this, the following map (the B'Laans are not Muslim) which includes areas proposed for inclusion in the BJE after 25 years: Now if this wasn't a stark enough representation of the situation, one of the Young Moro League members in my show pointed out that their professors made reference to another map, which did not restrict Moro territory to the areas in the Blumentritt map, but pretty much covered most if not all of Mindanao; and furthermore, that the Blumentritt map overstated the territory of the Lumads. All I could answer was that I have yet to see the map they saw, but what I'd presented was information pretty much agreed upon by various contemporary maps. But a recent entry in Bangsamoro Blog delves into the issue and essentially details the position raised by the Young Moro League member on my show:
The Bangsa Moro Homeland or territory must be composed of, at the MINIMUM, the areas specified in the Tripoli Agreement of 1976. Nothing less. At most, it should be the land territory of the Sultanate of Maguindanao, Sultanate of Sulu, Rajaship of Buayan, the Maranao Confederacy and other Moro datuships as of 1898, the signing of the Treaty of Paris between America and Spain. This is because Spain had absolutely no right to cede what was not theirs. The Americans realized this and so they signed a separate treaty (the Bates Treaty) with the Sultan of Sulu. Or, let the territory be according to the Moro Province created by the Americans which comprised all territory lying south of the 8th parallel latitude except Palawan and the eastern portion of the northwest peninsula of Mindanao. This includes the whole of Lanao, Davao, Cotabato, Zamboanga and Sulu before these provinces were dismembered later. But Palawan was given to the Sultan of Sulu by the Sultan of Brunei at the same time as Sabah. If Palawan could not be part of the Bangsa Moro homeland, it should be given back to its first owners – Brunei — or be part of the Malaysian Federation like Sabah. There was neither rhyme nor reason for the Americans to give the Moro province to the Philippines to form a Philippine Republic in 1946. The Moro Province was NEVER a part of the Philippine Revolution of 1896 or 1898 or the Philippine Republic of Aguinaldo. A cursory glance at history – real history not the fiction of Most Filipino historians – show that the Moros and Indios were never one people. Never until 1946. But the various Moro rebellions and the MNLF and MILF wars show that the Moros are not satisfied with being a second-class citizen in the Philippine Republic. The ARMM territory is not recognized by most Moros as the totality of their Homeland.
Again, as I mentioned in my previous entry, what matters less is that there is a history that could contest the history that informs the argument above (the participation of Moro leaders in the drafting of the 1935 Constitution; in the 1st and 2nd National Assemblies, and election in the first nationally-elected Senate in 1941 and thereafter), and more that the history has been accepted as The Truth by those who espouse it (one member of my audience afterwards pointed me to the book, Nation Under Endless Tyranny, as the most widely-read and thus, influential, book they and other Moros read; it was written under a psuedonym by Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF peace panel chair); in which case, there is no room for debate. Stripped of its offensive rhetoric, and of its defensive enumerations respectively, what Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr's speech advocates is the supremacy of secular law, while Rep. Mujiv S. Hataman argues from the perspective of Muslim religious law; the basic incompatibility of the two views was demonstrated on my show, too, where one member of the Moro League simply stated that if Sharia Law were made supreme in Moro areas, things would go a long way to calming down. That being the case, let's focus on the argument above making the case for the Moro homeland being defined either by the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 or by the old Moro Province established by the Americans. The Moro Province is portrayed in a Wikipedia Map and here's a detail for easy reference to the ethnic map above: Now what has further complicated the situation is suspicion over the intentions of Malaysia and now, of other countries usually considered allies of the Philippine government. On my show, Dean Jorge Bocobo brought up an interesting point concerning the Russian invasion of Georgia, which has been producing some interesting news articles and analysis indeed. See Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks (a topic I've been interested in since I read a policy paper on the People Liberation Army's cyberwar strategy in the late 1990s) and Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili's 'calculated gamble': When he moved troops into disputed South Ossetia, the young leader adored by Washington put his nation in a precarious position. For a domestic reaction, see The Pelican Spectator. And this video:

Let's start with Uncle Sam. The other night, the story went, Sen Arroyo: ‘Why was US at aborted MOA-AD signing?’ which makes me want to ask, with all due apologies to the other (fictional) Joker: (image is the masterpiece of Billy Añonuevo, many thanks for permission to use it!) But seriously, folks. Here is a very interesting map (from Strange Maps) showing how the Americans thought the world ought to be divided, in terms of spheres of influence, after World War II. The "New World Order" map, it's called. The American sphere of influence is in blue. The British, in orange. The Russian, in pink. Europe is a federation in purple, Scandinavia a federation in green. As it turns out the Russian portion pretty much conforms to the way things turned out. American ambitions and their reckoning of their interests are spelled out clearly (South America is a Federal Republic). What's interesting is that the British Empire is reduced to a shadow of its former self, its Caribbean possessions transfered to American influence or control, India independent, scattered trading posts left in an Africa basically otherwise a Federated Republic, Southeast Asia seems to be a gift to Britain, with the former Dutch East Indies firmly placed under British control but Burma, Thailand, and Indochina given over to Chinese control and influence. Notice, however, the Philippines. Let's zoom in on our part of the world: The Philippines, a protectorate under this American postwar vision includes extensive portions of present-day Indonesia (the Commonwealth government-in-exile had seriously proposed the union of the Philippines and Indonesia in 1943 and this caused great consternation with the Dutch, until the idea was quietly dropped; but it would resurrect two decades later with proposals for Maphilindo) while all of Borneo is apportioned to the British. Additional American protectorates are Taiwan (Formosa) and Hainan off the coast of China. The various islands comprising Guam, Nauru, etc. seem to be a gigantic federation that marks the American security perimeter in the Pacific. this is all to point out the Americans like to think in terms of spheres of influence, and we like to think we sit comfortably -and importantly- in the American sphere. Thing is, from the time America decided on a Europe First policy in terms of prosecuting World War II, Asia has been the secondary front and Europe, the primary one. And whatever importance we had in American strategic thinking diminished to the point of barely existing, after the closing of the US Bases. I've mentioned in the past that even with the War on Terror, the United States has pretty much been content to leave Southeast Asia to its own devices, with Australia taking up the slack (strikingly reminiscent to the 1942 map assigning most of our part of the world to the British Commonwealth). A couple of years back, in a think tank conference on the region in Washington, the darling of American policymakers was the President of Indonesia and the Philippines mattered mainly in terms of the threat to regional security posed by the JI. If you look at a map of the Pentagon's strategy for the War on Terror: You will see that the Philippines does fall within the sort of global picket fence American strategists have erected to contain threats to their security. You will see, however, that what they foresee as a future hot spot lies within the territory of Indonesia and does not include the Philippines -we enter the picture only in so far as we contribute to managing that potential flashpoint, or hastening its eruption. If you measure the significance of a country in terms of aid and where that aid's concentrated, then American aid is significant by Philippine standards but modest and even negligible by American standards; if you peg it, as most figures suggest, at about $60.5 million, it's peanuts; even if you factor in that the amount (the overwhelming majority of which is targeted at Mindanao) is worth double or even treble that, in terms of benefits to the local economy and savings to the Philippine government and military (there are other costs and funding devoted, for example, to military operations and exercises), they are still far from sizeable in comparison to neighboring countries or elsewhere America's invested in the world. If there's a concern in our part of the world, it's less JI and more the People's Republic of China. I wrote about this in my June 2007 entry, New Asian Alliance and there's additional stuff in my Inquirer Current entry, The China Card. While the Quadrilateral Initiative, which I've written about, focuses on China, it has also laid down the basis for a latter-day SEATO in our region, composed of the USA, Australia, Japan and India. Except for India, it's the three (US, Japan, Australia) who were most noticeable in the aborted signing ceremony in Malaysia. They have all established ties with the MILF in particular and Muslim Mindanao in general. They have, to put it simply, gotten their foot in the door, and this means whatever happens, they have established a basis for having a say in the eventual outcome of the RP-MILF negotiations. This cannot please Malaysia. For more on this, including its pressing strategic concerns, see Eagle Speak and this map, which shows naval flash points the alliance has been wargaming (note the flow of oil past Palawan and Mindanao): But blogger the nutbox, in an extremely interesting entry, puts forward some intriguing information and ties in what I've put foward, above, with what's going on in Mindanao:
What many don’t know is that no less than US Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte discreetly came to Manila right after the Supreme Court temporarily halted the signing of the controversial GRP-MILF agreement last week. Prior to that, rumor has it (I can’t really confirm this) that US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney went to Bangkok to meet with President George W. Bush, who was then en route to China for the opening of the Olympics, to brief him on the Bangsamoro issue. Ambassador Kenney, by the way, had been meeting with MILF leaders before this whole imbroglio broke out. These only prove the fact that the United States’s involement and stake on the Bangsamoro issue is deper than we all thought. And as always, the Americans would do all it takes- even thread dangerous waters if need be- just to pursue their national interest. I believe the United States is coddling- if not outright aiding- the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in exchange for major pro-US concessions. As early as 2003, the United States Institute of Peace, which is funded by the US Congress, has been involved in the “peace process” in Mindanao. Among their activities is the creation of a so-called “peace constituency,” which entails disseminating “information” about “ancestral domain” and the history and culture of the so-called “Moro” people to government leaders, policy makers, university students and even soldiers. This campaign, as far as I’m concerned, only aims to aid the idea that the “Moros” constitute a people distinct from the Filipinos. Not only is this idea faulty, it is also very dangerous because it gives the MILF the moral ascendancy to take up arms and it further sows division between Christian and Muslim Filipinos (I’ll talk about these in another post). Also, despite the clear existence of a discreet alliance between the MILF and the extremist terrorist groups in Mindanao, Washington has consistently moved against designating the MILF as a terrorist organization. More importantly, the US has been very supportive of the creation of the BJE. In fact, Ambassador Kenney even witheld her announcement of an aid package for Mindanao worth 25 million dollars when the Supreme Court TRO stopped the signing of the GRP-MILF agreement, as if the signing was a pre-condition for the package. Now, in geopolitics, everything is quid pro quo. The quid from the US to the MILF is this apparent support of the creation of the BJE. What, then, is the quo from the MILF? Under the GRP-MILF agreement, the BJE is to have complete control over the natural resources of the region, along with the authority to enter into any form of economic cooperation ventures with foreign countries, as long as they don’t not constitute direct agression against the Republic of the Philippines. In other words, the BJE can let the United States explore the energy reserves in the Sulu Sea and the Liguasan Marsh. And exploration, in turn, could give the US the opening to maneuver for exploitation of those resources. We all know that in this era of economic competition among global powers, energy- whether fossil-based or from alternative sources- is very vital. Not to mention the fact that Minsupala is actually a key route for oil exports from the Middle East to Northeast Asia and the United States. Secondly, MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu has stated that the seperatist group is open to the possibiity of the United States establishing a military base within the territory of this proposed BJE. Now this is a price the US would move mountains to get. First of all, the United States has troop concentrations in South Korea and Japan, but not in the ASEAN region. A military base in the proposed BJE, therefore, would complete Washington’s efforts to encircle and contain the Chinese, who have been actively doing alarming maneuvers in the South China Sea lately. Secondly, such a military base would give the Americans the springboard they need to intensify their campaign against the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which is believed to be based in Indonesia. You see, the Americans need such a springboard badly, and they can never expect to get one in the teritorries of Malaysia and Indonesia. In the status quo, the Manila politicians, the mainstream media and the Constitution make it hard for the Americans to establish such a springboard in Mindanao. This is why the best way for the US to get this springboard is through this BJE. The benefits the United States will get from supporting the creation of a BJE, therefore, are economic and geopolitical in nature.
Note, however, that as of this writing, none of my colleagues in the media have been able to confirm if, indeed, Negroponte's been here lately or if the US Ambassador did give a briefing to Bush in Bangkok. I am also skeptical about the United States going all-out to support the creation of a Bangsamoro State, because doing so complicates matters in a part of the world the US would prefer to keep quiet as it has major things to attend to in Afghanistan and Iraq. but what it cannot afford to do, is to appear inconsequential in anything that happens; and if the Philippine government concludes a deal with the MILF, then for reasons of prestige and more pragmatic considerations, the US has to seem to matter -to all sides. See New Philippine Revolution:
This is the reason why US Ambassador Kristie Kenney was there all throughout the peace talks, to make doubly sure that the GRP and the MILF really come to terms with each other. Defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro in his interview over at Private Conversations on ANC says that the real interest of the US in those talks is to ensure regional security. Why? If the Mindanao conflict spills over the rest of the region, it threatens the US mainland. A radicalization of young Moro fighters in Mindanao poses a very serious risk in the security of America. Remember that past World Trade bombers trained and even used the Mindanao corridor as a springboard towards the US. The possibility of Mindanao becoming a regional hub of terrorism is very high if these peace initiatives fail.
But I do think that American energies aren't just aimed at keeping a lid on things in Mindanao; I believe their priorities includes containing another Muslim nation in our part of the world. I've been thinking about the question of who will gain the most from the creation of the BJE and I think there's only one answer: Malaysia. (My own views on Malaysia as far as Mindanao's concerned can be found in Search for an Honest Broker in Mindanao). therefore even if the United States has larger incentives for supporting Federalism in the Philippines, its playing footsie with the MILF also gives it leverage when it comes to the country that used to be the sole patron of the MILF: and that's Malaysia. If you look at this map: The Muslim World is in green. If you look at our part of the world, the two contenders for dominance of the Muslims are Indonesia and Malaysia. The Philippines has traditionally allied itself with Indonesia versus Malaysia, but in recent years the Philippine government has fallen under the influence of Malaysia. Malaysia itself considers Sabah it's Achilles heel, and since the 1960s has supported secessionist groups among the Moros to keep the Philippine government busy while it embarks on the late 20th and early 21st century version of the Philippines' own colonization of Mindanao. Except this time, its the Malaysian government pursuing its own version in Sabah. After its influence waned with the MNLF, which gravited to Indonesia and which concluded a peace deal with Marcos and his successors, the Malaysians have taken to funding and giving political support to the MILF. At the very least, this keeps Manila perpetually off kilter; it might actually pay off in terms of a nominally Philippine-affiliated but in reality, pliably pro-Malaysian client state in a future Bangsamoro; it could, at best, result in outright annexation as part of a Greater Malaysian Federation stretching from the border of Thailand, to the borders with Singapore and Indonesia, to the vicinity of Davao -or beyond. This would make for a large, extremely wealthy, country that would keep that other perennial Malaysian rival, Indonesia, off kilter, too. You can trace these things on a regional map: A Malaysian-friendly Bangsamoro client state (which even now, its future leaders politely point out will decline to bring up any embarrassing questions concerning Sabah, regardless of how the old sultanate's borders and territories are used to justify expanding the ARMM in Mindanao itself; and which one Moro blogger, as quoted above, could very well be allowed to incorporate Palawan into it) would also be well-poised to project its claims into the Spratleys area: You can easily imagine the Philippine flags being replaced with Malaysian flags, expanding the scope of the Malaysian claim, based on its expansion of its sphere of influence to the Bangsamoro portion of Palawan, for example. Consider, finally, from a global perspective, blurry brain's views in the draft of an article he posted in his blog:
Another thing that must be emphasized, particularly when read in the context of news that flags of independence have been waived by the MILF, is that there IS NO JUSTIFICATION UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW FOR THE CREATION OF A SEPARATE LEGAL ENTITY. What is really disturbing here is the impression circulated by some parties that the right to “self-determination” could serve as the basis for creating (or eventually creating) such a separate entity and that by doing so we are being a “good international citizen” complying with “modern interpretations” of international law. This is complete crap. If a separate Moro republic is created, it is simply because we allowed it and recognized it for some inexplicable reason. There is simply no international law that requires or compels the Philippines to agree to a separate entity carved from its national territory... In any event, as I wrote previously, the right to self-determination applies only with regard to colonial peoples. It is essentially a right against colonialism and foreign military occupation. IT DOES NOT GIVE LICENSE TO SECESSSION. It is well worth reiterating, again and again if need be, that the right to self-determination does not allow a minority group to secede and become an independent State. This right to self-determination could be found in the United Nations Charter, the two 1966 Covenants of Human Rights, several General Assembly Resolutions, such as GAR 2625, as well as GAR 1514 of 1960 (or The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Territories and Peoples). It must be emphasized that the latter Resolution pointedly states: “Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” Indeed, insofar as cultural, religious or ethnic minorities are concerned, no general rights under the ambit of self-determination are actually applicable to them. International law justly recognizes (even if our government doesn’t) that the demands of political stability and territorial integrity of States are simply too important. The maintenance, therefore, of the Philippine’s territorial integrity takes priority over any right, whether it be collective or individual, including those claimed under self-determination. As succinctly put by former UN Secretary General U Thant: “The United Nations has never accepted and does not accept and I do not believe it will ever accept the principle of secession of a part of a Member State.”
Which brings us back to the MILF. From the very start, I pointed out that the signing of the agreement with the government was the real and ultimate prize for that group. To a certain extent, the intervention of the Supreme Court thwarted that objective. The question is what the MILF will do next. Bong Montesa (incidentally, an interesting look at him as a political partisan is in Phoenix Eyrie, Reloaded) presents this flowchart: Has he selectively gamed the possibilities? On the surface, no. After all, the outcomes depend on what both the government and the MILF do, in response to certain developments. Manuel Buencamino, in his column the other day, Just a piece of paper?, looks at what the MILF itself has said, and he says there is no ambiguity in what the MILF intends to do:
It’s obvious that the MOA is more than just a piece of paper that provides a “psychological boost” for the secessionist group. There is no turning back once the Arroyo administration signs the pact. If the current government or any of its successors do not implement the accord “in the guise of following the Constitution,” the MILF will raise hell. Ameen told Luwaran, “This is plain lokohan [foolishness] and the MILF cannot allow this to happen.” The MILF will make war if it does not get the MOA it wants. This is obvious from the veiled threat published August 6, 2008, in the MILF’s Luwaran: “The MILF has told the government of the Republic of the Philippines that its options to solve the Moro problem are reduced to only two: choose Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol and his company, who are pushing for war, or to continue the path of peace with the MILF.” The MILF can count on the support of Malaysia in case hostilities break out over the MOA. Malaysian mediator Othman Andul Razak, talking to the Associated Press on May 2, 2008, said, “If the government wants the talks to progress, it can do it. It can think creatively. But if it wants to stick to the constitution, things will not move.” Othman characterized the Philippine position on Constitution processes as “harping on technical points.” Malaysia cannot be blamed for acting in its national interest. The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) controlled by the MILF will serve as a buffer state between the rest of the Philippines and Sabah. The MILF has denied it promised Sabah to the Malaysians in exchange for support, but the May 7, 2008, statement of Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, sounds equivocal. “Never for a single moment did we talk about [the Sabah claim]. With Malaysia as facilitator, it is only practical for us not to bring that up or include Sabah in our proposed homeland. We are silent on the issue. We never said it belongs to the Bangsamoro people, just as we never said it does not belong to us. It is a nonissue for us at this point,” he said. The MILF and the Malaysians are acting in their best interests; is the Arroyo administration acting in the best interest of the nation?
The growing consensus, much to the fury and alarm of people emotionally invested in the RP-MILF agreement like Montesa (or Rudy Rodil: both surely sincere people but one wonders if they aren't so close to the problem that they have lost all sense of perspective on the loyalty the rest of the country expects them to demonstrate to the Republic), is that the administration was neither negotiating in good faith, or with a clear comprehension of the implications of the deal, domestically and internationally. Read Yen Makabenta's A peace that could lead to war. See, also, Miko Samson's rebuttal of the view proposed by the government negotiators, that the Constitution is a trifling detail that shouldn't get in the way of the historic agreement they (the negotiators) achieved. See also Moroland's Weblog for recriminations within the Moro community. As I told the young Moros on my show last Tuesday, my fear is we will be much further away from peace, because of an agreement that its negotiators claim brings us so close to achieving that peace. Mon Casiple in his blog, shows why the proponents of the agreement (whether foreign supporters like Mennonite peace builders) may be alienating a larger peace constituency:
In the present situation of a lameduck presidency with huge popularity deficit, any campaign for the public approval of the MOA-AD will meet stiff resistance. What I am saying is this: Federalism may need to be revisited if it is touted as the framework solution to the Bangsamoro demand for their right to self-determination and to the question of just and lasting peace in Mindanao. It may bring more problems than it solves. The only political path the peace process can take under the present situation is for government to undertake widespread and intensive national discussions, not to sell the MOA-AD but to discern the national consensus (particularly the limits of national concessions), go back to the negotiating table, and redraft a document based on this consensus. For the MILF, the same process should likewise be done among the Bangsamoro people, including the MNLF and other political groups within the community and bring their own consensus to the negotiating table. For the peace advocates, the main thing is for them to take a step back, to undertake the same national discussion with all stakeholders, and to disclaim their own biases in order to achieve a just and lasting peace based on a national consensus of all major stakeholders.
An entirely different topic -in that the proposals deserve serious consideration and debate- is the switch to Federalism. Ging Gagelonia, blogging At Midfield tackles one reason why the debate's become poisoned by suspicions concerning the President's motives. She took advantage of a resolution engineered in the Senate by Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.:
Pimentel says he has specified in the very title of the Senate resolution the limited scope of the Cha-cha train itinerary so that it will not have ’side trips’ that will tinker with other contentious changes in the 1987 fundamental law. Pimentel also bellows that the Senate and House of Representatives will vote separate and not as a single chamber when they convenes as a constituent assemly. But those are parameters as far as Pimentel is concerned. He himself is the first to admit that in this early stage of GMA’s Cha-cha push, the administration-controlled House could still throw in various alternate resolutions to complicate the debates before the two houses of Congress are able to pass an acceptable constituent assembly measure before theCha-cha train leaves the station.
As for the proposals put forward by Pimentel, blogger Snow World (hat tip to Jester for pointing it out) zeroes in on the proposals and The Jester in Exile makes short shrift of them in two entries: Lazy Legislature and Ivory Towers of Power. I have my own reasons for agreeing with The Warrior Lawyer calling the President's move "the Federalism of Convenience." It isn't something that has excited her except when politically expedient. When I proposed to the President that she hold her 2004 inauguration in Cebu, it was on the basis of her making a symbolic, but meaningful, commitment to Federalism by doing so. It was endorsed by administration officials on that basis. But as it emerged, the President decided to be sworn into office in Cebu, not because of Federalism, but as a "thank you" for the province and city delivering their votes to her. You can see one reason I believe she suffers from a failure of imagination and the kind of approach she has to politics. you could see it again in 2006, when genuine and committed exponents of Federalism like Jose Abueva found themselves used -and abused- by an administration that found them a useful smokescreen for what it really wanted: lifting term limits and shifting to the parliamentary system. And there you have it: she has a region rattled, governments scrambling to keep up, a situation unraveling, and for what? An expanded menu of political options under the smokescreen of a concept she neither fully comprehends or has ever genuinely subscribed to.

The perils of partition


My column today, Mindanao is both a local and national concern, takes exception to one part (while I tend to agree with the rest) of commentary, Making and unmaking Mindanao by Miriam Coronel Ferrer. There has been much trepidation about how today's ARMM elections would turn out (latest: Ballot box snatching mars ARMM polls--Comelec: Failure of elections mulled in some areas).

My column also points to and includes a reference to “Belligerency status” concept is obsolete by lawyer Soliman Santos, Jr. I quoted an extract from the entry on Belligerent Status from "Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know" (Roy Gutman) but if you'd like to know more about International Humanitarian Law, please visit The Crimes of War Project. The possibility of escalating violence in the area can't be discounted, and an awareness of how the international community views conflict, and the laws that govern conflict, should concern us all. A Day in the Life of RJ was moved by a comment concerning the Lumads -forgotten third party in the current tensions in Mindanao- and pleads,

Lost in this love-hate relationship, we have somehow forgotten that beyond the issue, beyond the discussions, beyond the “technicalities” — there are real people, real people that are truly affected. People whose lives hang by a thread, earnestly and patiently waiting for attention and assistance. While this issue is discussed in closed doors, in fancy halls and air-conditioned rooms, there are people who have become nomads in their own land, walking the ground in fear but braving it just the same — all because they have no choice, they are stuck there. They are waiting. Some hoping for salvation. Some have abandoned all hopes for such. Some indifferent as a result of witnessing too long a war — numb to anything that is and will probably happen. Some say this BJE is a mere guilt-trip by the government, due largely to the fact that Mindanao has been neglected for a long time — regardless if it were intended or not. Well, I say so what if it is? Isn’t it about time we cared? Imperial Manila, we have a problem! Right now, that is not even relevant. Guilt-trip or not, the fact remains that help is needed and fast. Let me ask you, when does guilt happen? When is it felt? Have you ever felt guilty about doing anything righteous? Have you ever felt guilty about helping a friend? I don’t think so. Guilt springs from the acknowledgement of a wrong-doing — whether intended or not. So, if there’s guilt, then by God, let us do some guilt-tripping! If you call giving people what’s rightfully theirs “guilt-tripping”, then call it that. If you call making peace guilt-tripping, then call it that for all I care. Those are just “terms”. “Terms” tend to be relative, ambiguous and easily misinterpreted. So let it pass. Let’s get past the concept of “terms” and work on something more universally understood — peace.

Today's headline, Air Force planes bomb MILF lair: ‘Eyeball-to-eyeball’ fighting in Cotabato and this earlier story, 80,000 flee as Moro fighters refuse to leave North Cotabato, brings to mind a past entry, Thoughts on Mindanao, in particular:

2. ...I had a very interesting talk with a former official who has an intimate knowledge of both the peace process and the Department of National Defense. Here are some observations made by the official:

a. Conflict in Mindanao is “self-containing,” a curious term which I understand works along these lines: the military undertakes an offensive; the leadership of whatever Muslim group the military is targeting melts away, seeking safe havens in Palawan and Sabah; Muslim families in the affected areas immediately send their families to evacuation centers; the evacuation centers are overwhelmed; the UN begins to speak of a “humanitarian crisis”; foreign media arrives, to cover the humanitarian crisis; foreign and public scrutiny become so intense, military offensives must cease; peace, for the time being, is restored. It is a tired, old, predictable, and tragic, script but one that serves to prevent violence from spiraling out of hand.

I don't see how the dynamics have changed, particularly since the military does not seem to have the element of surprise. In areas targeted for a military offensive, the MILF can melt away, while its troops engages its rivals in other areas, for example, in polling precints to disrupt the ARMM elections.

On August 9, the Inquirer editorial said the Supreme Court was in the delicate position of having to rule on the RP-MILF agreement without alienating public faith and confidence in it. Lawyers Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ (see The controversial GRP-MILF MOA) and Soliman Santos (see Will jurisprudence finally give peace a chance? in the PCIJ blog). seem inclined to argue that the Supreme Court actually has nothing to rule on, at present; that the Executive must sign the agreement, and then Congress should enact the laws and other things necessary to fulfill the agreement, before anyone can cry foul. At present, there is only the potential for mischief and both lawyers argue that the Court cannot rule on the basis of possibile scenarios. From overseas, blogger Left Flank seems inclined to support signing the agreement.

These will likely be unpopular opinions. Village Idiot Savant calls the agreement "the big sellout." This seems to echo what people from the are are saying.

At the heart of opposition to the deal is the suspicion that there are deals within the deal, and they will result in a Muslim-dominated independent Mindanao. Increasingly, there's been a lot of conspiracy-theorizing about the international dimension of the agreement, something that The Warrior Lawyer dryly recounts and which Amando Doronila takes up, in the broader context of international and domestic interests, too, today in a commentary.

Since the agreement, to put it bluntly, has the blessings of major powers, from the United States, to Australia, and including Japan (see Moro Views on Bangsamoro Affairs: the JICA has directly engaged the MILF and Moro NGO's), not to mention Malaysia, everyone assumes that's what's in it for them won't leave anything for anybody else.

Much ado is being made of USAID's Mindanao programs which grew from 18.9 million dollars in 2001 to 54 million dollars in 2005. The official American policy is reproduced in Small Wars Journal and you may want to take a look at this colorful map of USAID programs in Mindanao as of March, 2008: ( or click here: USAID Ongoing proj. as of March 2008 provincial.pdf")


A whole lot of projects!

This blog entry in bicycle diaries, who went to Muslim Mindanao on a US government grant, recounts local perspectives on the American presence in the area:

US foreign policy has given considerable military and diplomatic support to the Philippine government in its counter-insurgency war against two local Islamist groups: the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, and Abu Sayyaf, one of al-Qaeda's most aggressive affiliates in southeast Asia. The relationship between these two organizations is murky and controversial. Nonetheless, most Mindanoans with whom I spoke agreed that they are both outgrowths of the more secular Moro National Liberation Front, or MNLF, which first appeared in the early 1970s to fight for Mindanao independence from the Philippines. Today, it is one of the few Islamic national liberation movements to have successfully laid down its arms to peacefully govern the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, or ARMM, with grudging support from the Philippine government.

What is not murky is the US military and diplomatic presence in the south and west of the island where the Philippine army is fighting both the MILF and Abu Sayyaf. And like US counter-insurgency polices a hundred years before, US support is again perceived locally as a paradox. US Special Forces units have operated in MILF territory since the summer of 2002. While training the Philippine army has been their official mission, there seems to be little doubt locally that they are conducting the military operations themselves. In Marawi City, known as the only Muslim City in Mindanao, I met with one of the founders of the MNLF, the unofficial minister for propaganda for the ARMM. He not only reiterated this position, but also forcefully added that the CIA was responsible for both creating and arming the MILF and Abu Sayyaf to defeat the MNLF.

These and other conspiracy theories abound throughout the island despite the generally successful efforts of US public diplomacy. In addition to the roads and clinics built by US Special Forces and USAID, the State Department has reached out to local and regional peace groups working to sustain Zones of Peace where the Philippine army and the MILF have negotiated cease-fire agreements.

the question of course is whether American aid and assistance is concerned solely with neutralizing Islamic Fundamentalist groups like the JI or whether the Americans believe their interests are best served by having a Muslim client state in Mindanao.

An argument gaining currency is that the Americans believe they'd be better off negotiating with less than 10 million Moros than a Philippine government with a constituency of 90 million and which has been notoriously unreliable to boot. Aside from security, there would economic benefits for the United States (and Australia, and Japan, and Malaysia) from access to natural resources the Americans presumably mapped out as far back as a century ago (see this pre-1935 map):


I've said before that I think all sides are capable of posturing and that what may be noisy may not necessarily go beyond a previously agreed-upon, face-saving verbal aggression among the participants. But people have a tendency to be carried away and when politicians discover a gift for rabble-rousing, things can then get out of hand. Christian politicians thundering about mobilizing citizen militias, AFP officers sending ultimatums, MILF officials saying one thing but doing another: all may be winking at each other behind the scenes but their constituents don't know this, and all you need is one small confrontation to erupt for the whole thing to rapidly degenerate into open fighting.

With our government handicapped by several realities, most of them harsh, such as the government knowing its forces are ill-equipped, poorly led, and with weakened morale; and that they are dependent on supplies from the Americans who may have other priorities than supplying an AFP hell bent on liquidating the MILF (one reason: the MILF has a tacit alliance with the Americans against the JI).

On the other hand both Christian and non-MILF Muslim leaders know that if the MILF carries this off, then it will be poised to prove to all comers that it can take them on, and that the regional powers will back it at the expense of the Philippine government.

I have written about the documentary Partition: The Day India Burned, in Inquirer Current but here it is, again, for you to view and because it places in context the points I want to raise at this point.

In the case of British India, the leaders of the Hindu majority proved incapable of reaching an agreement with the Muslim minority because while the Muslims proposed a state with weak national powers, the Hindus were set on establishing a state with strong central powers. The British proved too weakened by war to arbitrate or impose their will. They even had to abandon the Princely States, the various principalities that had directly established relations with the British Crown. I will return to some points concerning the Indian experience but for now, you may want to familiarize yourself with two Wikipedia articles, as good a start as any: Partition of India and Political integration of India (additional question: could Operation Polo have served as a model for the planned invasion of Sabah in the 1960s?). The failure of Nehru and Jinnah to resolve their differences is a cautionary tale; and I've long argued we have much to learn from the Indian experience.

It keeps disappearing from the web, so once again, here is my article "Repulsion and Colonization," from 1996. In it, I pointed out Cabili's objection to the Convention having a special provision concerning Muslim areas in which their representation would be determined by law.

If you recall the arguments made by some Muslim warlords concerning the 2007 elections, they insisted that their culture stresses obedience to those in authority, and so they essentially practice bloc voting. It's interesting that in the Sultan Sa Ramain's speech that I reproduced in my previous entry, he responded to delegate Jose Cabili as follows:

Last week, my co-Delegate, Mr. Cabili, spoke about the extension of suffrage to Mindanao and Sulu. With respect to that, I think the Delegates representing Mindanao and Sulu should be asked as to whether complete suffrage should be extended to the people of Mindanao and Sulu.

In view of the Sultan Sa Ramain's reply to Cabili, and Cabili's subsequent refusal to sign the Constitution it seems to me that the delegates did this as a concession to Muslim leaders, which infuriated the Christian (and possibly, more democratically-oriented) Cabili.

In Re-constructing Colonial Philippines: 1900-1910, historian Patricio Abinales (who is from Mindanao) made short shrift of the belief that Moro resistance to the Americans was both widespread and protracted:

Surprisingly, the pacification process was fast and relatively easy. There was hardly any resistance from the various indigenous communities in the Cordilleras, while Muslim resistance was scattered and unsustained. At the middle of the first decade, the Cordilleras and “Moro Mindanao” had become very stable and peaceful areas.

A major reason for the American success was the cooperation extended by Muslim and Cordilleran leaders to the Americans. They regarded colonial rule as a means of protecting themselves against Christians and “lowlanders.” American military officials reciprocated this cooperation by resisting the efforts of Filipinos to extend their power to the “special provinces.” A working relationship eventually developed between these community leaders and the Americans whereby the former were given minor posts in the provincial government (“tribal wards” in the case of the Muslims) in exchange for agreeing to recognize American sovereignty. U.S. army officers who administered these areas also became their protectors against Filipino leaders, doing everything they can to limit the presence of Manila and the Nacionalista party in the Cordilleras and “Moro Mindanao.”

The only major resistance came from the Muslims at the hills of Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak, when the army declared a ban on weapons and raised head taxes. American military superiority prevailed and over a hundred Muslim men, women and children were killed. Politically, however, these actions eroded the army’s standing and opened up an opportunity for Quezon to attack military rule in Mindanao. After the massacres, the army was forced slowly to concede authority to Manila and the Filipinos. The army’s powers were also clipped once the U.S. Congress authorized its partial demobilization, and once the American president ordered its withdrawal from the special provinces and its replacement by Philippine Constabulary units. Many American officers also preferred to continue their military careers in the U.S. mainland, seeing very little prospects in just limiting themselves to the Philippines. All these problems emboldened the Filipinos to assert their political presence in these special provinces. This was something that a weakened military government could not repulse anymore. In 1913, the army conceded its power to the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, a body controlled from Manila and by Filipinos. The Cordilleras’ status as a special province was also terminated and the Nacionalista Party began recruiting its first “Cordillerans” to join the organization.

Two major features therefore characterized the first decade of colonial rule. First was the full and effective unification of Las Islas Filipinas under American rule, and second was the division of colony into two major zones of administration reflecting the histories of their respective populations. These two zones were eventually unified under the Filipinization policy, but the distinctiveness upon which they were based continued to affect overall colonial development. Muslims and Cordillerans remained staunchly pro-American and anti-Filipino, while Christian “lowlanders” continued to mistrust and maintain a low regard for these “wild tribes.”

The book "Muslim Rulers and Rebels: Everyday Politics and Armed Separatism in the Southern Philippines (Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies , No 26)" (Thomas M. McKenna) zeroed in on Cotobato to describe how among Filipino Muslims, there was an interplay between outsiders, the Muslims as a whole, and among the Muslims themselves, between their leaders and the followers and subjects of the traditional leaders:

The new datus of the colonial period were able to enhance their traditional status because of the power and wealth rhey had obtained through collaboration with American colonial authorities. With the early abandonment of the policy of indirect rule, their political positions were not predicated on any official American recognition of their traditional right to rule Cotabato Muslims. Instead, they were bestowed with ceremonial offices -as municipal district president, assemblyman, or (occasionally) senator- as tokens of their political ability to mediate between ordinary Maguindanaons and an alien colonial authority, and as rewards for their political willingness to ensure Muslim compliance with colonial aims. In return for these services they received, besides the trappings and privileges of office, the opportunity to exploit new potential sources of wealth. Thery also retained control over the agrarian sector during the colonial period. They were nonetheless a dependent and sectional elite. Commerce was almost entirely controlled by the Chinese, and public administration remained exclusively in the hands of Christian Filipinos.

Dean Jorge Bocobo offers up dramatic readings from the book in his blog, Philippine Commentary, if you want more. Suffice it to say that Bocobo relishes pointing out a point raised by McKenna, which is that the "Moro" identity was itself a legacy of the American era. Blogger reason is the reason points to the column today of Noralyn Mustafa, who points out the more authentic identity of Muslims in the Philippines is whether one is Maguindanao, or Tausug, etc.:

Then I tried the same survey with the term “Moro.” Some were visibly amused, some asked what it meant, some said that they heard the word in “Tagalog” movies, especially when a “juramentado,” properly swinging a kris dripping with blood, was featured.

When the Moro National Liberation Front (of which the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is supposedly a “splinter group”) concocted the term “bangsamoro,” ostensibly to unite the different ethnic tribes that were members of the MNLF, as well as the population of Mindanao and Sulu, I thought it wise to first ask my mother, through force of habit actually....

...Would she have agreed to being called “bangsamoro”?

I don’t think so. Although she had lived in Jolo from her 17th birthday up to the day she passed away in October 1996, she insisted she was a “Zamboangueña.” She was born and raised in what is now Zamboanga City, in the ancestral home in Magay, the only “Muslim” house in a Christian neighborhood referred to as the “brick house” because of its brick tile roof.

She went to school in what was formerly known as the “Moro Settlement School,” later named St. Albans School, managed by the Episcopalian (Anglican) church, affiliated with the Brent School system, where she was a member of the tennis and basketball teams, and was placed in the soprano section of the school and church choir.

Although she worked as a teacher in Sulu until she retired, it was a must for her to go “home” to Zamboanga whenever possible, and years of speaking Bahasa Sug never diminished the fluency of her Chabacano (it is spelled with a “b” in the Spanish dictionary).

Now, would she have agreed to having some barangays in Zamboanga City included in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity? I certainly don’t think so.

The Spanish authorities requested my grandfather to be the wazir of Sultan Haroun Al-Rashid of the Palawan royalty, probably to make him more acceptable to the Tausugs, in order to settle a bitter rivalry in succession between the more popular Datu Amirul Muhminin (who would be proclaimed Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, the last sultan of Sulu) and his brother.

In Palawan is a town called Batarasa. It is named after a sultan of Sulu.

Would I agree to having Palawan included in the BJE?

I don’t think so. It is Tausug ancestral domain. And I am a Tausug.

Let me be clear about my interpretation of events (which I do not claim to be the definitive one by any means; this is only by way of explaining my approach to the problem).


I think it's clear that what separated the Sultanate of Sulu (the only one of the major Muslim kingdoms to survive into the modern era) from the rest of what we today consider the Philippines, is that until the twilight of Spanish colonization, it managed to preserve at least nominal sovereignty over its territory. This is supported by maps from the era. It is supported, further, by President Aguinaldo recognizing that sovereignty by inviting the Sultan of Sulu to incorporate his realm into that of the infant Philippine Republic, an invitation that was declined even as the Visayan Federal State accepted a similar invitation from Aguinaldo.

Whether Spain, in turn, up to that point having established a protectorate over the Sultanate of Sulu, handed over the sultanate with the rest of its Philippine territories is actually irrelevant. American sovereignty was extended over the Sultanate of Sulu through a combination of conquest and attraction, and made binding by means of treaties. The Americans, in turn, oscillated between separating Mindanao from the Philippines or keeping it part of the Philippines. This, in turn, led Christian politicians to cultivate some traditional Muslim leaders who then signed on to the concept of Filipino nationhood.

In return for political privileges and the assertion of their status, leaders like the Sultan Sa Ramain became fixtures in the corridors of power: in the first national senatorial elections, in 1941, the Sultan was elected senator (the parceling out of seats in the Nacionalista Party slate, at a time that the country was basically under the one-party system, points to how party elders were very conscious and particular about making sure every constituency was kept happy).

but at the same time the political leadership set about, quite consciously, to keep Mindanao by settling it and thus preventing other nations from claiming it (this was a period of Japanese settlement in Davao, after all) on one hand, while strengthening the powers and authority of the government by reducing, in turn, the powers and prestige of the traditional Moro leadership.

This article, Kris v. Cross, from Time Magazine's June 29, 1936 issue points to an opportunity that presented itself to the Philippine government:

Nine days prior, from Jolo in the Sulu Archipelago, His Highness Padukka Mahasari Manaluna Hadji Mohammad Jamalul Kiram II, Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, Judge of Agama, lineal descendant of the Prophet, had ascended to enjoy the limitless quantities of gold, jewels, silks, dates, rice, spitted lamb and beautiful women which await the Faithful in the Mohammedan Paradise. The Sultan, who for some years was the only sovereign reigning under the U. S. flag, lived on the tribute of his 500,000 Moro subjects, plus his pension from the Philippine Government, plus his land rent from British North Borneo Co. With this wealth the Sultan kept a primitive court where he enjoyed the favors of scores of wives in his youth, several in his old age, although he begot no offspring. Three nieces, however, he adopted as his daughters. No sooner had he died than one of them, Princess Dayang Dayang,* began to quarrel with Hadji Butu, the late Sultan's grand vizier, over who was to succeed Kiram II. Dayang Dayang won the first round. Since the Sultan's corpse was rapidly putrefying and could not be buried until a new ruler had been chosen, she secured the appointment of her husband Datu Umbra as Sultan pro tern. Meantime, datus (princes) of the Sulu islands had been advised by Grand Vizier Hadji Butu, ablest and best educated of the Moro patriarchs, to enthrone Datu Rajamuda, only surviving brother of the late Sultan.

On the same day that the National Assembly met in Manila the datus assembled at Jolo, determined to make Rajamuda Sultan. Again the wilful Princess got the best of Hadji Butu. She informed the visiting princes that according to tradition a Sultan of Sulu could not be chosen except by unanimous vote. Therefore they must wait until every datu from the farthest Moro island had arrived. The followers of Rajamuda called her by the names of she-animals. They declared she planned to make herself Sultana or—almost as unforgivable an insult to a warrior race—get the job for her husband, Datu Umbra, or her father-in-law. Datu Amil-bangsa. The princes grumbled, but the proclamation of Rajamuda's accession was withheld and the throne continued last week to tremble in the balance.

To this day, the heirs of the last Sultan have been unable to unite; one factor may be that the Philippine government in 1936, the year of the last acknowledged Sultan's death, abolished the state subsidy to the sultanate and refused to recognize a successor.

In the same year that the Sultanate of Sulu passed into history, the National Assembly enacted Commonwealth Act 141, amending and compiling the laws on lands in the public domain.

Both actions -the refusal to intervene in the succession crisis among the last Sultan of Sulu's heirs, and passing a law that firmly placed the authority of the Philippine government in the line of legal succession to American and Spanish authority, recognized as paramount by Muslim rulers in the past- was a strategy that would have been familiar to state-builders like Mustapha Kemal Ataturk or the ruling Congress Party of India. It was a policy encapsulated by Manuel Roxas in 1922:

Said the Speaker of the House, Manuel Roxas: " We have encroached upon the rights of the Governor General because in that guise liberties are won."

He might as well have said that encroaching upon the traditionally-asserted rights of former monarchs is also how nation-states are built.

The implications of this and subsequent laws, are clear explained in More Road blocks: conflict of rights by Patricio P. Diaz in MindaNews:

While the Bangsamoro people have historical rights to their Ancestral Domain and land, the Christians in the provinces, municipalities and barangays that are proposed to be included in BJE have earned rights – property right to their lands and the right to belong to the political jurisdiction of their choice. This conflict of historical and earned rights is at the root of the storm of protest in North Cotabato and the cities of Zamboanga and Iligan.

The Christians have earned rights to their lands under homestead laws, through government settlement programs, or by purchase. To their credit the MILF leaders have given the assurance that they will respect lawful ownership of lands by the Christians.

Yet, the “except-clause” in Consensus 3 on “Concept and Principles” – “except when … other forms of possible usurpation or displacement for force, deceit, stealth, or as a consequence of government project or any other voluntary dealings entered into by the government and private individuals, corporate entities or institutions” – is not reassuring and a source of anxiety and fear for many. And they are determined to die for their lands.

Political right is as sensitive as property right. By their own choice, people live together in a barangay, municipality and province where, led by their elected leaders, they labor to live in peace and contentment. The present protests are expression of resentment and anger for what they believe as undue interference in their political right.

Their leaders are saying this: In the ARMM plebiscites of 1989 and 2001, we voted to stay out. Why will we be included in BJE to be asked of our option again in another plebiscite in 2009? Their message – why trifle with our political right? – is clear.

To Illustrate

Why are they protesting? Only barangays and whole municipalities with predominant Muslim population are being asked to join BJE. Most of the protesters are not included.

Correct. But they contend that, first, many of the areas included are Christian-dominated; and, second, the stability and territorial integrity of their province or municipality will be adversely affected – hence, violating their right to remain stable, intact and progressive.

To illustrate, here is what will happen to North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte and Iligan City. The conflict of political rights is clear.

Cotabato: 18 municipalities. Two whole municipalities, Pikit and Kabacan, will be included in the JBE. Four others will be badly dismembered – Banisilan will lose 18 of its 20 barangays; Carmen, 17 of 28; Matalam, 12 of 34; and Pigcawayan, 20 of 44.

Except for Mlang and President Roxas that will lose three and one barangays respectively, four others will lose significantly – Alamada, six out of 17; Aleosan, 7 out of 19; Midsayap, 19 of 57; and Tulunan, 7 of 29. Only Antipas, Arakan, Libungan, Magpet and Makilala will remain intact.

This is what will happen in 2009. In 2034, or thereabout, the province stands to lose to BJE all its municipalities except Antipas, Kidapawan, Magpet and Tulunan with 22 barangays. The storm of protest in Cotabato is being condemned. Should it be?

Sultan Kudarat: 12 municipalities. All of its 10 municipalities will be included in BJE, leaving only Isulan, its capital, minus three of its 17 barangays and Tacurong City. In 2034, Isulan will be completely absorbed in BJE, leaving only Tacurong City.

While the province has a population of about 20 percent Muslim, there is no protest from there. It has a Muslim governor and one of its two congressional representatives is a Muslim.

Lanao del Norte: 22 municipalities. Six municipalities – Baloi,Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and

Tangcal – that voted YES in the 2001 ARMM plebiscite are considered part of the core area of BJE and

they will no longer take part in the plebiscite in August 2009.

The whole of six other municipalities will be included and they will take part in the plebiscite. Of the 10 other municipalities left, Kauswagan with 13 barangays will lose 12; Linamon and Magsaysay will lose all their barangays. That leaves the province with Baroy, Kapatagan and Lala intact and Bacolod, Kolambogan, Maigo and Tubod slightly affected. In 2034, Bacolod will be completely absorbed. The province will only have six municipalities.

The province has a population of 35 percent Muslim. But with a Muslim governor and one of its two congressional representatives a Muslim, there is no protest there.

Iligan City: 44 barangays. Only eight of its 44 barangays will be included in BJE. But these are the largest with a combined area of 82 percent of that of the entire city. Besides, they are the source of the city’s agricultural products. That no other barangays will be taken in 2034 is obviously not consoling to the city residents and leaders.

Looking at the above, how will the three provinces and Iligan City survive? In 2009, Tacurong City and Isulan may as well be annexed to South Cotabato, thereby abolishing Sultan Kudarat, and Lanao del Norte be abolished with its remaining municipalities given the option to be included in BJE or realigned to Misamis Oriental.


MOA-AD is founded on sound concepts and principles. But as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so concepts and principles are only as good as their actualization. The storm of protests that met the publication of the agreement shows the need to reexamine its contents in order to reconcile conflicts and to remove obstacles blocking the peace process.

But let me return to the unraveling of the partnership between the leadership of Christian and Moro Filipinos, and what may be the event that blew the lid off the festering contradictions of that partnership.

The elections of 1949 -immortalized by the line "first they voted in Lanao, pati na aswang pa daw!" in the Mambo Magsaysay- revealed the patchwork nature of this alliance between traditional leaders. As the rest of the Philippines became more modern, the shared values of the Muslim and Christian political old guard -to maintain the appearance of democracy while winking at each other as to how their authority was derived through undemocratic means- became increasingly untenable.

On a national scale this led to the prewar politicians suffering an electorate debacle in 1953, with a brief restoration in 1957 but with the momentum for the younger generation restored with Macapagal's victory in 1961. It took a little longer for Muslims and the delay meant that younger Muslim leaders not from the traditional aristocracy, but also influenced by Western thinking and the demise of colonialism, could look to secular Arab nationalism, with Gamel Abdal Nasser as their inspiration.

The decline in the influence, prestige, and legitimacy of the old Muslim royalty (McKenna suggests their claims to old pedigrees was itself something of a fraud) led to the rise of secularist intellectuals like Nur Misuari, and new warlords like the Dimaporos and Sinsuats of the modern era. The story of the decline of the old, and the secular, nationalist, aspirations of the new Muslim leaders -who created in the 1970s for Muslims what Rizal had created for Christians in the 1870s, the concept of nationhood ("Filipino" and "Bangsamoro" respectively) would then collide with what has come to subvert the nationalist-secular order in places like Egypt: Islamic fundamentalism, one of the ideological divides between the MNLF and the MILF.

But the reality is whether one proposes and another person contests, an interpretation of history, everyone has to acknowledge that what matters is what the majority subscribes to. I've pointed to the dominant narrative in Some readings on Mindanao, and that dominant narrative does not view the commitments of the traditional Muslim leadership as legitimate, and therefore, whatever partnership existed between them has been retroactively declared null and void by today's Muslim leaders.

This Wikipedia map showing the historical extent of Moro territory and the present-day Moro provinces (in yellow), and the present-day Muslim areas in red, contradicts the maps I showed in previous entries:


But in the end, it does not matter if the claimed areas are based on fact or fable. First of all, because poorly-educated Christian Filipinos, leaders and followers alike, can't argue othrwise; and second, even if they could, the leadership of the Moros believe it to be so, and will fight to make it so again.

The Bangsa Moro Blog is not coy at all as to the ultimate territorial aspirations of at least some Muslims in Mindanao:


But let me point you, finally, to Philippine Politics 04, who points out, in turn, that even as the MILF may be courting Uncle Sam, some of the Christian politicians talking so bravely about the integrity of the Republic, had planned to secede from the Republic themselves.

The Sultan sa Ramain speaks, 1934

MLQ_Muslims.jpg I have been working on 20 Speeches That Moved a Nation Volume II for some years now, and one of the speeches I decided to include was this one, taken from the Constitutional Convention records. It was delivered by Alaoya Alonto, the Sultan Sa Ramain, convention delegate representing Lanao. By way of putting the speech in its historical context, here is an extract from a paper by Rizal G. Buendia:
In the 1934 Constitutional Convention that framed the 1935 PhilippineConstitution (used as the fundamental law of the Commonwealth and 1946 Government of the Republic of the Philippines [GRP]), several elected Muslim Constitutional delegates, led by Alauya Alonto, called upon their fellow delegates not only to cease calling Muslims Moros but also to accept Muslims as part of the Filipino nation. This turn of events is a classic case of shifting self-definition, attaching new value and meaning to one’s identity in the prospect of advancing its political interestsand exigencies of power within the parameters of a newfound state. This is a clear case wherein ethnic identity is simply not fixed but malleable and shaped by one’s interest in preserving power and access to resources as expounded by instrumentalists Brass and Cohen. What deepened in almost two decades from the 1950s was the ethnic self-recognition of the masses as Filipino-Muslims (foremost as a Filipino and second, as a Muslim). The legitimacy of the Philippine state to govern the Muslim areas of thecountry was neither questioned nor challenged by any of the Muslim elite. The emergence of new intellectuals and counter-elite among the Muslims and the political events that transpired in the late 1960s until the early 1970s triggered the re-invention of Muslim identity. The massacre of about 28 Muslim military trainees (called ‘Jabidah commandos’) on Corregidor Island in March 1968 rekindled the quest of Muslims for independence, almost 50 years after it was first clamored for inthe 1920s.
Here is the speech:
SPEECH OF MR. ALONTO ON THE PROBLEMS OF MINDANAO (Interpreted from Moro to English by Datu Mariaga Sa Ramain Alonto) Constitutional Convention Record, Journal No. 18, August 21, 1934. MR. ALONTO. Being one of the elected Delegates from the Province of Lanao, which I have the honor to represent in this Convention, I appear before you in a mood of enthusiasm to present to you the problems that confront the people of Mindanao and Sulu. You are aware of the fact that I am a Mohammedan by birth and by blood, that I am one of the Delegates representing one of the provinces in the Islands of Mindanao and Sulu. The Island of Luzon and the Visayas are predominantly inhabited by Christian Filipinos, the Islands of Mindanao and Sulu are also inhabited by Christian Filipinos. Mindanao, one of the three islands, is inhabited by Mohammedan Filipinos. Prior to the Spanish regime in the Philippines the Mohammedan Filipinos had been living a life in an independent way. They had their own activities and civilization, the so-called Mohammedan civilization. History tells us that Spaniards failed to penetrate their civilization in that part of the Philippine Islands because the Mohammedan Filipinos refused to fly the Spanish flag in their midst. The Mohammedan Filipinos fought against the Spaniards, brandishing their bolos and kampilanes. Also it is to be regretted that the people of Luzon and the Visayas had been subjugated by Spaniards, but in the Islands of Mindanao and Sulu the people resisted until the Spanish regime in the Islands was ended. Although there has been propaganda that Mohammedans are against the independence of our country, during the Spanish regime they also demonstrated their love for liberty because some of the sons of Mindanao and Sulu died for no other cause than the immortal glory of our country. Now came the American regime. You are aware of the facts of history of the Moroland under the American and Filipino governments. Due to the diplomacy and farsightedness of the American people they adopted the policy of attraction and won the confidence of the Mohammedan Filipinos. The Americans came to our shores with a promise that as soon as we are able to maintain self-government they will grant us independence. This is manifested by the approval of the Tydings-McDuffie Law which grants our cherished dream to be free and independent. I wish to bring to the attention of the Members of this Convention as representatives of the Filipino people that the Mohammedan Filipinos have been protesting against the name “Moro”. We do not like to be called “Moro” because when we are called “Moros” we feel that we are not considered as part of the Filipino people. You als know that the name Moro was given to us by the Spaniards because Morocco had been under the rule of Spain like Mindanao and Sulu. Therefore, I would like to tell the Members of this Convention that we prefer to be called Mohammedan Filipinos, and not “Moros” because if we are called Moros we will be considered as enemies, for the name “Moro” was given to us by the Spaniards because they failed to penetrate the Islands of Mindanao and Sulu. Another fallacious theory that I would like to invite your attention to is the impression that the Moros are warlike marauding criminals branded as “juramentados”. That is not true, my friends. In the Islands of Mindanao and Sulu there are many Christian inhabitants and they can get along all right with the Mohammedan Filipinos. It is natural that even among brothers, there is a quarrel; so, how much more among people? I would like to call your attention to the fact that we expect much from the Members of this Constitutional Convention; that the customs and traditions of the Mohammedans are granted to them by the present government should not be ignored to them by the Members of this convention. Religion does not in any way bar us from joining one another, for anybody can profess any religion he wishes to. It is true that the men assembled in this historic hall are going to draft the Constitution for the future Philippine Republic and it is true that the Constitution to be drafted is not to last for only one year but for all ages; and upon us rests the serious responsibility to give to our beloved country an enduring constitutional foundation in this period of transition. The Constitution to be drafted must not only be for the satisfaction of a tribe or of a particular group of people but must be for the satisfaction of the while Filipino people. I also demand the permanent and final solution of the so-called “Moro problem” which has been confronting the Filipino people time and again, and if we fail to solve this problem it will be interpreted that we are incapable of managing our local affairs. We also demand that the Mohammedan Filipinos be given equal rights in the Constitution, because, as it is now, we are not given equal rights. We can count by the tip of the fingers the Mohammedan Filipinos who are thinking whether or not—now that our independence is being given—we shall be given more rights by our Christian brothers. It is a fact that in Luzon and the Visayas, you have good roads, good hospitals, good schools, etc., but in the Islands of Mindana and Sulu, my friends, there are no good roads, no good schools and hospitals. A beautiful Manila will not make a beautiful Philippines if Mindanao and Sulu are behind in improvements. To be frank with you, there was a time when not even a soul among the Mohammedan Filipinos was for the independence of our country. I was the only one who worked for the independence of our country, sacrificing everything, and I have never turned traitor to my country, because I believe that through independence the higher destinies of our people can be attained. The Government has not been expending much money on the islands of Mindanao and Sulu, but if the Government will spend money on these islands, the returns will be great, because you are aware of the fact that the natural resources of Mindanao have not been developed; and if these natural resources are developed, they will be sufficient to support the whole Philippine Islands. I am also, in behalf of Mindanao and Sulu, inviting our Christian brothers in Luzon and the Visayas to migrate to Mindanao and Sulu, if they have no lands of their own. In these most trying days in our history, we must advocate national unity among the Christian and the Mohammedan Filipinos, especially during the transition period, because if there is going to be trouble, that will be interpreted in America that we are not yet capable of independent existence. However, I have faith and confidence in the Members of this Convention, because I know and I am certain that you will not ignore our rights, customs, practices and traditions. I know that you will work for the welfare not only of the Christian Filipinos, but also of the Mohammedan of Mindanao and Sulu. I appeal to the Members of this Convention that if there is something to be incorporated in our proposed Constitution, like the customs, practices, rights and traditions of the Mohammedan Filipinos, I believe that we should be asked with respect to any changes regarding them. Last week, my co-Delegate, Mr. Cabili, spoke about the extension of suffrage to Mindanao and Sulu. With respect to that, I think the Delegates representing Mindanao and Sulu should be asked as to whether complete suffrage should be extended to the people of Mindanao and Sulu. You are aware of the fact that polygamy has been existing among the Mohammedan Filipinos because it has been sanctioned by our religion; that is, each man is allowed to marry four during abnormal times. I think when something is to be done with regards to the practice of polygamy among the Mohammedan Filipinos, i.e., if you are going to stop it, that needs and should be given serious deliberation by the Members of this Convention. I am also a Mohammedan like them, but allow me to tell you that I have only one wife, and if there is a way to abolish polygamy without encountering the contrary opinion of those people, I will be the first man to do it; but, my friends, we have to be patient and so we have to do it in a gradual way, step by step, because if we are going to surprise them by abolishing polygamy immediately, I am sure that there will be trouble among the Mohammedan Filipinos. Although there is nothing wrong with polygamy because, if polygamy is to be practiced as provided in the holy Koran of the Mohammedan Filipinos, it should only be permitted during abnormal conditions. Take for granted in time of war when there are so many women and so many men die, it is natural for a woman to crave for a companion. It is also a fact that although my Christian brothers do not practice polygamy, they have what they call the querida system and yet the law does not say anything about the querida system; hence, my friends, the law must not be sentimental. A Mohammedan can have four wives legally in accordance with Mohammedan rights but polygamy is only sanctioned by the Koran under certain conditions in the life of a man, as for example, a man marries a woman and she turns out to be not capable of bearing him a child. With the Mohammedans a man having a family without a child is like a man in the grave, and so it is natural for a man to marry another woman who will bear him such child. Mr. President and Members of this Convention, I appeal to you again to reiterate once more that the final and permanent solution of the Moro problem must be made at last. More appropriations should be given to Mindanao and Sulu in order that they may have more schools to educate their children and that they may have good roads so that there will be easy transportation, and so that the Mohammedan Filipinos may go to Luzon and the Visayas and exchange ideas with their Christian brothers.
What we often forget is how relatively unpopulated the Philippines was at the time the Sultan Sa Ramain made his speech: 14 million (see historical demographical data of the whole country). tis is why he could invite Christians to settle in Mindanao and why tensions would reach crisis proportions in the 1960s, by which time the population was 31 million. I'd like to propose that you consider the following maps. The first is an ethnographic map, available at Virtual-Museum.com, based on the research of Ferdinand Blumentritt, the great and good friend of Rizal. It's an ethnographic map, and note the distribution of the Moro population, marked in green (Christians are marked in pink; mixed Christian and Pagan populations, that is, areas with Christians but also the area inhabited by what we call Indigenous Peoples today, are marked in yellow. fblumap.jpg Since the MILF agreement with the government basically establishes the end of the Spanish era and the American conquest as the timeline for defining the ancestral homeland of Filipino Muslims, it's interesting to compare the Blumentritt map, with the proposed territorial expansion of the present ARMM. As the Inquirer color-coded version of the official agreement map (below) shows, you must consider the maximum aims of the MILF to comprise three objectives: pic-08060342480839.jpg First, the present ARMM (in red) as the nucleus of the BJE; Second, the annexation, by means of plebiscite, of the areas marked in green, within 12 months or by August, 2009; Third, the annexation, after suitable investments have been made by the national government, of the areas marked in yellow, within 25 years. If I knew how to do overlays it would be interesting how the proposed BJE and what was mapped as Muslim territory in 1890 coincide or diverge -as well as the areas defined by the Supreme Court as IP areas. Finally, here is a a map of ethnic groups per province, from Wikipedia, to compare to the 1890 Blumentritt map and the BJE map. You will see, immediately, why tensions have been caused by the proposed BJE. Philippine_ethnic_groups_per_province.PNG

The march of folly in Mindanao

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MY column for today is The march of folly in Mindanao. I find it interesting that the Moro students I talked to ventured an opinion quite similar to that expressed by Ricky Carandang in his blog:
My other problem is this: I have seen the quality of the political leadership in ARMM and I am not optimistic that greater autonomy for the warlords who rule there will improve the lives of ordinary Muslims. The ordinary people there could be merely exchanging the neglect and indifference of Imperial Manila with the unimpeded oppression from their own kind. Neither am I opitmistic that with those leaders in charge, they can bring stability or security to the region. Much of the success of the BJE depends on the kind of leadership that will arise in the region. So far, its not looking good.
I'm not so convinced of "neglect and indifference" as Carandang expresses it; what seems more accurate is that attention and resources have been lavished on the Moro leadership but the national government has refused to extract any accountability from those leaders just as those leaders have followed the lead of their Christian political peers by squandering the resources at their disposal. But returning to Carandang's opinion, is the former not, in its purest form, a colonial question? Being asked to prove the capacity for self-government is what a subordinated people are asked to do; it is not what two peoples looking to find a way for an amicable co-habitation or a just parting of ways, asks of each other. This brings me to the danger from all the emotions unleashed because of the way the public was caught by surprise by the RP-MILF deal, is that it may actually set back the prospects of a just peace settlement: not least because all the aggressive talk masks the galling reality that the Republic is already hard-pressed to maintain its writ, much more actively quell a rebellion.This news then: MILF given 24 hours to leave areas ‘forcibly’ taken in ARMM . Can it be taken at face value? Posturing? A sudden recovery of military balls? But this harsh military reality must be separated in turn from public perception and criticism of the deal. Among the wrinkles in the current situation is the perception that Malaysia is not an honest broker (while our governments have been weak, see Tatay Pepes blogging from General Santos City) and a lingering lack of confidence in Islamic democracy : and while I believe there can be democracy with Islamic characteristics, personally, I am not convinced that a large Muslim minority can be successfully integrated into a state dominated by another religion (I ventured this opinion back in 2004): unless secularism becomes entrenched. But since we seem to be leaving secularism more and more behind, then all the more the political incompatibility of the two sides, Christian and Muslim, becomes clearer and clearer. But there is something slightly underhanded in some Christian politicians suddenly wrapping the national flag around themselves, when the only thing wrong with separatism, it would seem, is that the MILF beat them to it, and they are excluded from it. These Christian politicians have themselves openly proposed and discussed secession, and of course virtual Commonwealth status, after all. The opinions of Christian Filipinos in Mindanao, however, is an altogether different thing. While I think the panic is being fanned, irresponsibly, by Christian politicians, it has at its heart a justifiable terror at the thought of having been handed over like pawns to a future Muslim state, and worse, being denied any assurance of protection by the authorities. The bare minimum any citizen, and what's more, entire communities who suddenly wake up on day to discover their future has been radically altered (potentially) by government fiat, should be able to expect and not even have to demand, is that their property and security will be guaranteed by the Republic. Still, the reality is that with the impending ARMM elections (opposed by the MILF), the eruption of public passions in Christian areas in Mindanao, there seems to be a widely-held assumption that some sort of conflict is nigh. I believe this is a good time to point you to my conference notes on the ICT and Democracy Conference, and in particular, to Text wars or SMS for peace?
As tensions and violence began to spill into the streets in Kenya in late 2007, the government decided to ban local live broadcast. Whilst this is obviously controversial, there were fears that radio, in particular, could be used, as it had done in Rwanda, to incite violence. The ban of live reporting meant that SMS began to be utilised as an update method and thus ‘mobile reporters’ were born. The Government realised that they couldn’t control the internet or the text messages which were being sent to incite hostility, so they countered them with their own blanket text messages stating that the violence was illegal and that Kenyans should be concentrating on peace.
As well as to this, to set the tone for this entry: Today's Inquirer editorial appeals for the authorities to step back from the brink and reconcile themselves to the parameters ordained by the Constitution. Yet I found it quite interesting in a gathering of Inquirer columnists last night, that opinion was quite divided on what to expect from the Supreme Court.A sober voice among the columnists said to me, "There are, indeed, times when the national interest may require a tremendous sacrifice which includes parting ways. Think of Malaysia and its parting ways with Singapore, a win-win for both sides as it turned out. But the problem is while we may want to seriously consider this option, you cannot do it this way, in this manner, in defiance of the Constitution." Similarly judicious views were expressed by John Nery in a recent column. One opinion seemed widely shared: the Supreme Court won't dribble this one, it will resolve the status of the government's deal with dispatch, if only to calm the situation. But while I heard that the Supreme Court would rule against the President, basically saying she had exceeded her authority, another and shall I say more authoritative sort put it to me in a more nuanced manner: "The court will rule as the President wants it to rule." Which means it will support the President's deal, I asked? The person said, no, the court will rule as the President decides, at the time, it should rule. And left it at that. There are those, of course, unhappy with the Supreme Court's intervention, and its TRO has, in turn, inspired frustration on the part of those, like Bong Montesa, who, we must assume, sincerely participated in the process out of the belief it offers a way forward. Abe Margallo also agrees the Supreme Court may have been out of bounds in issuing the TRO vs. the deal. The most surprising opinion I heard, though, came from our Cebu columnist Juan Mercado. When I told him that perhaps some tacticians had determined the appeal of Federalism would swing support in the Visayas behind the deal, he vigorously disagreed. "This will find very hard going in Cebu," he said. I am not so sure, though, that at this point we can say, as At Midfield thinks, that the whole thing has begun to unravel. Yesterday's Inquirer editorial points to the views of Fr. Juan Mercado, OFM, a veteran of the peace process, who points out the genius of the RP-MILF deal, but also its fatal flaw. The genius of the document lies in that
The MOA is not just about "ancestral domain" in the ordinary sense of the word. The MOA creates the very prism, the framework and the mechanism to realize their dream and aspiration. The MOA will be difficult to understand, simply because it introduces a new and unfamiliar paradigm in looking at the issues involved in the peace process. In the past, the peace negotiations were done and approached by insisting on the Constitution as if it were written in stone. It is no accident that the peace negotiators of the past had to negotiate within the “box”, that is, the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence. Atty. Camilo Montesa of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, a Cotabato-based Think Tank, narrated to the Kusog Mindanaw Group the genesis of the new paradigm as used in the negotiation with the MILF beginning December 2006. The new paradigm is based on the concept of "earned sovereignty" as a way out of the intractable positioning of the parties.
This concept involves accepting the principle of shared sovereignty; in institution building; and a shared commitment to resolving the final political status of a Muslim homeland. But, Mercado points out,
The main flaws of the otherwise a very good paradigm are basic which could have been addressed easily by government while negotiating with the MILF. The paramount flaw is the absence or utter lack of consultation of stakeholders, including Christian leaders, indigenous peoples in Mindanao, and peace advocates themselves. This flaw contravenes the very essence of any peace process which is participative of the stakeholders. The participative aspect of any process can NOT be overemphasized since this should lead to a regional and national consensus on the peace formula. The second flaw is the lack of transparency and thus the lack of accountability in the whole process. It is rather very tragic that a good paradigm is now being “torpedoed” on the basis of fundamentals (consultation and transparency) that could have been easily addressed. The same fundamentals are required in the upcoming negotiations on the Comprehensive Compact (or Final Peace Agreement). The third flaw is the fact that the government negotiating peace with the MILF is at its lowest ebb. The social capital and the credibility of Government are busted. For a peace process to bring to a successful conclusion will require a very high social capital and credibility that this Government sorely lacks. Government has to do a lot of “selling”, “cajoling” and “convincing”, especially so when the waters the Parties have navigated in coming up with the MOA are deep and little known. For this very reason, Government should have walked the extra mile in making sure that the stakeholders are on board.
It is the lack of a pre-existing constituency mobilized, ahead of time, to support the agreement; the absence and in fact, refusal on the part of the government to be open about the negotiations; and the general mistrust that haunts the government, that has led to such a ferocious response from Christians in the vicinity of the ARMM and even skepticism and opposition among some non-MILF Muslims. The government, as Amando Doronila pointed out, should have been aware of the importance of a principle enunciated by Woodrow Wilson at the end of World War I:
Wilson said the first point in a program of peace for a postwar world was: “Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”
But surprise people and don't be surprised in turn if they panic. And if you have any doubt that feelings are increasingly heading in a ferocious direction, then see this entry in Over a Cup of Brewed Coffee, concerning popular sentiment in Iligan City. And examine, too, this entry in The Forsaken and consider if this opinion is reflective of a lunatic fringe or of broader and deeply-entrenched sentiments. Not to mention fire-breathing denunciations in the House of Representatives (Moro lawmakers are, to put it mildly, not amused). more moderate, cautious, but still skeptical views are expressed in Super Sawsaw, and (surprisingly, to me) Philippine-American Commentary thinks the whole mess has been caused by misplaced American guilt and delusional laws passed by Filipinos and entrenched by local jurists. The Pelican Spectator finds the whole thing quite reckless and I have heard similar opinions even from those supportive of some sort of settlement. See, for example, Gloria's Terror Gambit, in today's Wall Street Journal:
Such a national campaign to empower Muslims faces an uphill battle in a country whose population is 93% Christian. Which is just as well, since it would be a major mistake for at least four reasons: First, by carving up provinces into separate Muslim and Christian enclaves, the deal would surrender any hope that Filipinos can find a way to live together and instead falls back on the myth that countrymen can live healthy "separate but equal" lives in an apartheid-like arrangement. This would undo the decade of progress toward greater political integration since former House Speaker Jose de Venecia started welcoming Muslim representatives into his ruling congressional coalition. Second, it would increase rather than decrease the likelihood of territorial disputes because the agreement concedes to claims that the region constitutes a traditional Islamic homeland. This would likely inflame Christians, who would be kicked off of land where they have lived for decades when Muslims make claim to their legally mandated "ancestral domain." Third, further removing Muslims from the rest of Philippine society and enabling them to shape an entirely separate culture would encourage the separatist mentality that dreams of carving out a pan-Islamic state from other existing countries in the region, such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. This has been a MILF goal since its founders broke off from the Moro National Liberation Front in the 1980s after that group made peace with Manila. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for the outside world, greater Islamic independence and less Philippine control over the Islamic regions would invite even more terrorist activity in an area that already has strong ties to al Qaeda. With the deployment of U.S. Special Forces to the southern Philippines now in its seventh year, joint U.S.-Philippine operations have pacified the most lawless Muslim areas. Expanding the Islamist sphere of influence now threatens to undo this success.
Although there are, to be sure, voices being raised in defense of the RP-MILF agreement. See Rebel Pen who sees conflict as the inevitable and necessary price for development, and Stoned Immaculate who feels there is little justification for continued integration. Some of it may be wishful thinking, for example Pinoy Youth Rage's skepticism over the critics of the deal basecon the belief, among other things, that the agreement will not result in constitutional amendments. That the territorial aspect of the deal has alarmed and even enraged Christians in Mindanao (and even some Muslims who live in non-ARMM areas), apparently surprises Bong Montesa (who has a blog, Peace is Possible in Mindanao) of the timeline of the RP-MILF agreement fame, and long a proponent of, and involved in, the peace negotiations. In his entry Peace is an emotional issue, he recounts presenting the peace deal to the faculty and staff of the Notre Dame University in Cotobato City, and being taken by surprise at the ferocity of the responses -and questions- of the faculty and students:
These were questions that, if you were listening enough to my presentation, the answers would be obvious. Then I realized that this matter of the peace talks in Mindanao is, by and large, an emotional issue. No amount of logical reasoning can change how people view the subject matter. People’s reaction on this are really irrational, depending on which side of the fence they stand. As I was getting out of the theater, a young man approached me and with a serious, almost pleading, look in his eyes, he asked me: “Atty. Bong, is it true that if Cotabato City become part of the Bangsamoro Homeland, the muslims can take away properties of christians and claim them as their own?” “Where did you get that idea?” I asked him. He replied: “I heard that muslims are already scouting and marking the big houses of christians in Cotabato and staking a claim over these houses in anticipation for the signing of the peace agreement and Cotabato City’s eventual incorporation in the Bangsamoro Homeland.” I sighed and felt a heavy weight on my shoulders.
Let me say that it disturbs me, personally, that someone so intimately involved in the process expresses surprise at the reaction; this is either mind-boggling naivite, or plain and simple incompetence on his part and if it refects the mentality of those who negotiated the agreement, then accounts for why it has provoked such an (unecessary, to my mind) firestorm of protest. Which, You are, by now, familiar with this map: BJE.jpg For my show, Tuesday , which you can watch online on YouTube, I put forward a visual comparison between the present territory of the ARMM: NEW - ARMM.jpg And the proposed expansion of it to comprise the proposed BJE: NEW - ARMM2.jpg And placed it in the context of the old territorial scope of the old Moro sultanates, including the Sultanate of Sulu, which survived the longest (the wavy dotted line demarcates the sultanate from Spanish territory as of 1892): demarcation.jpg Well, These colored versions are easier to understand. From the Inquirer print edition: pic-08060342480839.jpg Derived, in turn, from this, which appeared in the Peace is Possible in Mindanao blog of Bong Montesa: final-category-a-map.jpg Though it's interesting that in Montesa's version the "affirmative action" areas highlighted in the Inquirer map are not highlighted. Let me venture an opinion on the territories proposed for plebiscite and the affirmative active territories: let us consider the possibility the MILF is aware that these territories will not accede to the proposed BJE. But what the MILF wants is, basically, royalties to be derived from these territories, in the form of subsidies or a portion of the economic production of these territories. I am also not convinced foreign nations outside Malaysia are devoting serious resources to pushing the direction of the negotiations one way or another: but they are sniffing around to see which side gains the momentum and you can be sure that if they think the MILF will have its way, there will be a stampede by foreign governments to take credit for helping give birth to a new nation, to secure favorable treatment for their investments. Where we are, then, is perhaps further from a negotiated peace than at any time in recent memory. Let us hope Tony Abaya's dire scenarios do not play out. How intractable the problem has become, is demonstrated by the reality that the Moros have basically undergone the same process other Filipinos underwent in the 19th Century -the subordination of their own ethnic identity into that of a national one- so that while "Filipino" is a 19th Century construct, that of Bangsamoro is a product of the 1960s- and that this ideological construct has retroactively invalidated what traditional Moro leaders tried to do: integrate themselves into the Filipino nation. And while old ethnic tensions still exist among the Moros, it is something that has been around long enough to be increasingly non-debatable: see Moslemen Macarambon Jr. Personal Blog. The tag line of Wyzemoro Blogs says it all, and his entry reproduces the expression of a reality non-Moros must confront:
Prof. Lingga, Executive Director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, pointed out that it is important for the Bangsamoro to assert their right to self-determination “to determine their political status since their incorporation to the Philippine state was without their plebiscitary consent”. He suggested that Congress pass a law that will authorize the conduct of a referendum for the Bangsamoro to determine their political status. The referendum, he said, shall give Muslims in the Philippines several choices including independence, autonomy, free association, consociational arrangement, federal arrangement, and other power sharing arrangement.
The genesis of this non-recognition of the past participation of the traditional Moro leadership in the formation of the present Philippine nation-state, next time. For now, another entry in Wyzemoro's blog, distills the issues. See What is really at stake in the Mindanao peace process? by Ishak Mastura.

Peace in our time?

Update! Well, well, well! SC stops MOA signing. Interesting! Because prior to the Supremes' intervention, Ding Gagelonia was reporting MILF Sets Ancestral Domain Pact Signing on August 25, Not Tomorrow in his blog!
Without any explanation the Moro Islamic Liberation Fron is reporting on its web site, luwaran.com, that the controversial signing of what it says “is considered as the most significant and historic event that ever happened in the annals of the 11-year old GRP-MILF Peace Talks” is being held on August 25 and not tomorrow as earlier announced by Malacanang. The MILF report goes on to say that “in term (sic) of significance, the MILF views this signing ceremony as at par with the signing of the Tripoli Agreement of 2001 in Tripoli, Libya.” “Composing the MILF delegation are: 1) MILF Peace Panel; 2) Secretariat; 3) Technical Committee, whose membership were former members of the MILF Technical Working Group (TWG); 4) Back Staff of the MILF Peace Panel; and 5) representatives of MILF-nominated NGOs. The group which originally broke away from Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front also says it has “sent some 50 persons including its peace panel, secretariat, technical committee, and representatives of its nominated non-government organizations (NGOs) to the formal signing ceremony of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) in Putrajaya, Selangor, Malaysia August 25.” This unexplained postponement comes in the face of mounting opposition to the agreement which, although it is being downplayed by Malacanang, is also being challenged in thre Supreme Court and non-Muslim officials, among them Malacanang ally, North Cotabato vice governer Manny Pinol.
Last Thursday, my column, An undemocratic decorum , focused on the glitterati who inspired public revulsion during the President's State of the Nation Address. But the essential starting point is a remarkable entry in his blog by Jove Francisco, who provided background information on the preparation of the President's speech, including some points that were dropped at the last minute: and how those preparations belied the Palace's claims that it had merely shrugged off the devastating survey results released on the eve of the President's address. The decision to focus on a catalog of achievements was a conscious effort to reclaim public opinion (he also has an intriguing portion on how the Palace may have commissioned its own survey in order to prop up Joseph Estrada as a straw man to help propel Charter Change: it reminds me of this diary entryby Ferdinand Marcos). He also blogged that the President's people all assumed a discreet go-ahead for constitutional amendments had been given (former Chief Justice Panganiban in recent columns discussed how such a change is neither constitutionally or legally impossible nor politically insurmountable):
As previously announced by the officials of the Presidential Management Staff, there will be no mention of Charter Change. But conversations with sources from the political scene confirmed that Chacha may not have been heard in the halls of congress during the SONA, but it sure is being talked about by those concerned, “yun nga lang ay pabulong pa”.
Secretary Dureza, when I asked him about the President's Mindanao plan, was evasive but, old pro that he is, immediately countered by saying the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process would be reporting to the House, but he probably knew by then that the real news would that House panel approves ARMM poll suspension. Since then, of course, and rapidly (though Reuters reported about it on July 16, see Philippines, Muslim rebels reach deal on homeland), since the story has basically unfolded in about a week, the public has come to realize that it has very little time to grasp the full implications of the President's comments on Mindanao and the peace deal with the MILF. While we don't know whether the pros or cons did the leaking, details of the proposed agreement began to be reported over the weekend: Bangsomoro to get own state: Gov’t, MILF to sign ancestral domain pact Tuesday. Public opinion, this early on, is divided -and even heated. It reminds me of this:Perry-Castañeda Library At first hailed as a conquering hero, by the outbreak of World War II, Neville Chamberlain was despised as an appeaser and Appeasement has been our political vocabulary as a negative thing since. In recent decades, though, historians have taken to proposing that what Chamberlain did was buy time, so that Britain could better rearm for the inevitable confrontation with Germany. In our case, the question is whether the public believes a peace deal with the MILF is in the national interest or not. Certain provinces tried to intervene in the Supreme Court, but the government told the Supreme Court the contents of the deal are covered by executive privilege. See SC starts deliberations on appeal vs MOA:
Shortly after the high court started its session, government, through Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera, sent its comment to the petition filed by officials of North Cotabato province, asking the high court to dismiss their appeal for a disclosure of the contents of the MOA, Marquez said. Marquez said the high court gave the government until 12 noon Monday to submit its document, which arrived shortly after the high court began its deliberations. By invoking executive privilege, in its 26-page comment, the government said while negotiations with the MILF did not involve any foreign power, there were military and national concerns raised. “This being so, the entire process, the negotiations involving the said MOA and the drafts, documents thereof resulting from said negotiations is covered by the doctrine of executive privilege, which prevents the disclosure of information that could subvert military or diplomatic objectives,” the solicitor general said.
But then again the draft of the agreement is already available on line. See the full text of the RP-MILF draft pact on Bangsamoro homeland. As for the agreement itself, two entries in Mon Casiple's blog cover all the controversial bases in the agreement. See MILF decoy for cha-cha and Disturbing BJE questions. As it is, Casiple provides a chart put together by Bong Montesa, part of the government's negotiating team, and so it's safe to assume the chart is authoritative, and puts forward the official game plan: peace-is-possible-timeline2001.jpg Now what, exactly, does the game plan cover, in terms of territory? Let's begin with this Wikpedia map, which shows, in green, the existing ARMM territory: 800px-Mindanao_regions.PNG Now refer to this map: BJE.jpg The image above is taken from ABS-CBN's scan of the draft agreement, and shows the areas proposed for inclusion in the expanded ARMM which would then constitute the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. You will notice that the areas in black, the areas where the government commits to holding a plebiscite, correspond pretty much, to these 19th Century maps of the old Sultanate of Sulu (from the Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection). There is this German map from 1859, note the demarcation line for Spanish-controlled areas of the Philippines: political_control_german_view_1859.jpg Another map from the same year shows the demarcation line more clearly: jedo_bay_1858.jpg Another map this one, which is from an 1892 American encyclopedia map, also retains the basic delineation between areas under direct Spanish control and the territory of the old Sultanate of Sulu: asia_1892_amer_ency_brit.jpg These maps cover a period that, based on one timeline put forward by , circumscribed the authority of the Sultan of Sulu and established the area as a Spanish protectorate:
March.1877 - The Sulu Protocol was signed between Spain, England, and Germany that recognized Spain's rights over Sulu and, in consideration for the said lease of North Borneo, ended European hostilities in the area July 22, 1878 - Sultan Jamal ul-Alam signed a treaty with the Spanish Crown making whole of Sulu a protectorate of Spain yet retained her autonomy and the privilege to fly own flag thus saved Jolo from further destruction. 1883 - Manila Spanish government established a customs house in Ciudad de Zamboanga to clear goods coming into the Sultanate of Sulu but, on the insistence of the British, Jolo was declared a free port and trade continued.
After which, of course, took place American efforts, by treaty and conquest, to establish American sovereignty over the Sultanate. That in itself calls for a separate, future entry, as it's the American conquest of the old Sultanate of Sulu that leads, in turn, to the question of the Republic's sovereignty over Muslim areas in Mindanao. But for now, this blog entry in stuart-santiago, asks why should it even be that outright independence for Muslim areas isn't a widely-acceptable option. To her, it is. As for myself, my contention today is that The agreement itself is the prize. It does not matter if the whole thing doesn't take off, what matters to the MILF is getting the government representatives to formally sign the memorandum. See The Warrior Lawyer, who agrees with me but also says the agreement will lead to bloodshed. In Davao, Alleba Politics is puzzled by the agreement:
I, among many here Mindanao, have been seeking out for the restoration of peace in the island. My Muslim friend is optimistic that the agreement can bring peace to Mindanao, but he also fears it might lead to war. For one, he questions the sole representation of the entire Muslim population by MILF. This MoA, I fear, reeks of insincerity, a strong decisive political move with many repercussions. I do not want to wait and see how it plays out because too many lives have been lost. And in the process, it has all become military and political. What our Muslim brothers want and need, in my opinion, cannot be simply answered by such military and political solutions.
A hawkish response, including a reproduction of Tony Abaya's column quoting Bobi Tiglao's visit to the MILF's base of operations in the 1990s, appears in Tatay Pepes Restobar in General Santos City, Philippines. The announcement by the MILF that the agreement will be signed on August 25, also makes for interesting reading, giving a glimpse of those it considers its enemies.

A race against time

Last week I had a chance to address an international gathering of people affiliated with Liberal parties, on the subject of Asian Values versus Liberal Democracy. My thesis was simple: at the heart of the contention by proponents of "Asian Values" as some sort of superior alternative to Western-style Liberal Democracy, is an appreciation -from long practice by senior-citizen politicians- of the motive power of the anti-colonial struggle. It is no coincidence that Lee Kwan Yew is the primary ideological exponent of "Asian Values" and for the purpose of defending the political heritage shared by the nations that emerged from Western colonialism in our part of the world: the one-party state in which political dynasts coexist cosily with big business. But, I told my audience, former colonies have been independent for close to three generations now (in the case of the first to emerge from colonial status, namely the Philippines and India), and for the rest, at least two (or in Brunei's case, a full generation). The end of the Cold War also marked the end of our part of the world as one of the battlegrounds of the Cold War, and so, the even the era of neocolonialism can be considered to have passed. The motive power of resisting democracy as part of nationalist reawakening, is fading; and with the passing of the generations who can still recall life before independence, to my mind, so will pass the idea that Liberal Democratic values are an alien concept. But my talk got me thinking further on how we frame our problems in a manner that dates back to the days prior to independence, with the challenges of getting a newly-independent nation on its feet in mind. One such question is that of Muslim Mindanao, which tends to be framed by neoconservatives in a manner reminiscent of the confrontation between Japanese and European Fascism and the Western democracies; it is no coincidence that if Radical Islam pines for the restoration of the Caliphate that came to an end with the secular Republic of Turkey and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, then Rome on the other hand is fighting a two-front war against secularism and Islamic influence in Europe, and that American neoconservatives and Bin Laden both view their struggle for power from the perspective of the Crusades. In our own case, the question of Muslim Mindanao continues to be perceived from the point of view of our peaceful struggle for independence: that Muslim Mindanao is in danger of being lost. That the solution must be to contain the Muslims, and if possible, to prevent a power vacuum in Mindanao as a whole, and that can only happen by filling it with Christians. the problem, of course, is that Mindanao's already filled with Christians; while Muslim Filipinos are now reproducing so vigorously, that their populations have taken to finding living space elsewhere in the archipelago. Yet most of us, I'd suggest, still think that Muslim Mindanao is one discrete place, and one which can be cordoned off, if only the national government could muster the political will and military might; that we take it for granted that there is an immemorial territory that defines who Muslim Filipinos are, is a mentality to which many of our older exponents of Federalism also subscribe, and what they and the non-traditional Muslim Filipino leaders who've emerged since the 1960s have in common, is the belief that the Philippine nation-state must be refashioned as a means to achieve what they believe will be a historical vindication for their sub-nations: with some proposing outright nationhood and secession. To be sure perhaps as recently as a decade or two ago, this notion remained sound, in that they could speak as advocates of populations who dwelled in defined territories and who shared a common culture defined by a common language; today, I believe it's increasingly untenable. I've mentioned before that the old obediences are being eroded not only by migration and immigration abroad, but migration at home; dynasties must constantly shrink their territories, to hold them, as new residents arrive, devoid of the traditional notions of obedience these dynasts could once upon a time. Phillanguages.jpg Take a look at this Wikipedia map, which divides the country along lingguistic lines. And then bear in mind some observations made to me by former U.P. President Francisco Nemenzo, a Cebuano, when I ran into him in Cebu's airport some months back. He said that a kind of mapping project has been taking place, and formerly lingguistically-pure areas have started to change, often quite quickly and usually, remarkably. The examples I recall are that areas surrounding Iloilo have turned Cebuano-speaking while areas of Mindanao formerly Cebuano-dominated are now turning Ilonggo-speaking; if I recall correctly he even said the growing lingguistic population in Mindanao were the Ilonggos and no longer the Cebuanos; as for Cebu itself, he said, fully ten percent of its population was Muslim, a trend that began with refugees during the Marcos-era Moro Wars, and that the Muslims in Cebu were mainly Tausug. There are growing pockets of Muslim Filipino residents not only in Metro Manila, but up North and even in the Visayas; when I took the fast ferry from San Carlos City in Negros Occidental to Toledo City in Cebu, the ferry service was Muslim-owned. Add to this snippets I've picked up from people as I've pursued the topic Nemenzo brought up. In Quezon Province, for example, there are growing pockets of Bicolano speakers; Aurora province, on the other hand, is increasingly marked by an Ilocano presence; the Ilocos itself, in some parts, seems quite depopulated, and a decade ago I experienced an Ilocos Sur tourism official telling off a group of kids from whom we asked directions, because they talked to us in Filipino (from Cebuano educators I hear that Cebu City, at least, now has its first generation of youths who prefer to converse with each other in Filipino). There are, of course, entire areas well known for their populations being composed mainly of immigrants: Imperial Manila has been a Visayan city, for all intents and purposes, for two generations (Why then, I asked Nemenzo, haven't more Visayan words entered the Tagalog spoken in Manila? His response was interesting: the effect of the Visayans has been not on vocabulary, but on grammar: the simplification of Tagalog, as spoken in Manila, and therefore, used in the media, is a manifestation of Visayans stripping Tagalog of its grammatical encrustations from the time Tagalog itself evolved from Cebuano in the distant past!). This suggests to me that what we have come to take for granted, has been gradually disappearing for some time and is actually accelerating at present; and among other things, this means that viewing Muslim Mindanao as either a place to be contained, or something that can be lost (or, as I've considered in the past, something to consider detaching from the republic) is certainly impossible now if it was ever possible at all in the past. I told the gathered Liberals (though it's not too clear to me what the youth represents belonging to variously-named parties have in common, politically) -from the United States, Germany, Belgium, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, and of course the Philippines- that the false dichotomy between Asian Values and Liberal Democracy was a problem with a demographic solution: addressing the youth leaders from the two wings of the presently-divided Liberal Party in the Philippines in particular, I urged them to be confident that their decision to maintain solidarity among party mates from their generation, even as their elders squabbled, would be vindicated. But only, I said, when the party elders died and they, by sheer attrition, took over. The same applies, I think, to many of the seemingly intractable problems we face nationally, with a political scene dominated by increasingly geriatric big shots who long ago abandoned their idealism and who have lost their capacity to be imaginative. It takes some time to understand it, but on the whole, there are signs that when the dinosaurs go, we will find a more highly evolved generation of Filipinos taking their place: one that might be more adept at balancing idealism with pragmatism, in problem solving, in cooperation, in sustained effort and so forth. Whether they are conscious of it, or only instinctively yet dimly aware of it, the elders now ruling the roost in mainstream politics and in the various rebel organization, are fighting the battle everyone eventually loses: against their own mortality. What was fresh, even radical, or even tried, tested, and true for their generation, whether you are Fidel V. Ramos, Juan Ponce Enrile, Joker Arroyo, Jose Ma. Sison, Nur Misuari, Joseph Estrada or even President Arroyo, was forged in the crucible of a Philippines that is dissolving. And so, they are furiously trying to write an appropriately grand epitaph for themselves. Consider the relevance, however, of achieving a Muslim Federal State, at a time when a remarkable expansion of Muslims into other parts of the Philippines is taking place: or of demanding near-divorce from the Republic for Ilocandia or Cebu, when their own populations have changed drastically: demarcations that ignore changes in demographics, such as the movement of Ilocanos into areas once considered -and dominated by- Tagalog people. As it is, one of the big problems that exists in expanding the current territory of the ARMM, is that while once claimed by the old Sultanate of Sulu, among others, the areas being demanded as an integral homeland for Filipino Muslims takes neither traditional divisions within the Muslim community (Tausug versus Maranao, etc., etc.) into account, or how they ceased being dominated by Muslims long ago; or how, even, in these border areas, claims of Christian settler supremacy is often by means of hair-thin margin.

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