By Jamil Adrian Matalam
Ateneo de Davao University
The decades-long war in the Bangsa Moro has now reached a point that is probably near its end—thank God. The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, it seems, would have a final peace agreement with the emergence of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE). Yet many Filipino politicians, it would seem, are against it. They oppose it because it would be like surrendering Philippine sovereignty over a portion of Mindanao with the MILF or the Moros. Some of them say it is like carving out a portion of the Philippines. To this I say NONSENSE!
To carve out something presupposes a solid block. The history of the Islands does not support anyhow this illusion that the Philippine archipelago is a solid block. During the pre-Spanish colonization in the Philippines the Islands were divided among independent Barangays. During this period there is no such a thing as a Philippine nation, as we now conceive of it. Loyalty then was not to a Philippine nation but to one’s barangay. The inception of a Philippine nation began towards the 3rd century of Spanish domination in the Philippines. The common hardships and sufferings of the Indios led to a himagsikan para sa Inang Bayan—The Philippines. Even then the Inang Bayan for Bonifacio, the father of the mga anak ng bayan, was simply the Katagalugan. During these periods the Moros were then divided into different Sultanates, independent and recognized as such by the Spaniards. The American colonizers did not anyhow consider the archipelago as a solid block. They divided it into two separate administrative provinces, the Christian North and the Moro administrative province. By the inception of the Philippine Republic there is still no considering the archipelago as a solid block. By the time of Quezon to Marcos the Philippine Republic speaks of integrating the Moros into the greater Philippine nation. Thus, the Bangsa Moro has always been separate from Bansang Pilipinas. This truth has been the basis of the struggle of the two biggest Moro liberation fronts. Therefore there is no such a thing as carving out a portion of the Philippines by the Moros. Nonsense and hilarious!
Am I not here fostering separation instead of solidarity among the beautiful people of these struggling and blessed Islands? Well, explicitly no. If the history of the Philippines has to move further then it must address this great issue. In the resolution of this issue the historical truth about the Bangsa Moro must be included in the equation. It must not be covered or veiled by political nonsense blubbering by some Filipino politicians, whose grounds for their blubbering is merely the Philippine Constitution and a legal definition of a state. A dialogue on peace can never be limited by a state constitution.
I agree with retired General Esperon that the best way of solving the issue is to consult the inhabitants of the proposed BJE through a plebiscite. It is only through it that we could achieve true solidarity. The greatest historical error of the Filipinos is there failure to consult the Moros if they would like to be part of the greater Filipino nation. The Philippines, if it is to take a further step into its history as a nation, must rectify this error. Otherwise, any attempt of applying Filipino sovereignty over the Moros would be a foreign imposition over them, and for the Moros that means war.