Can there be permanent peace in Mindanao?

By Romulo G. Bautista, Ph.D.


All sorts of professional experts, except perhaps the professional philosophers, have been asked to help resolve definitively the war in the conflict areas of Mindanao. It is about time that the professional philosophers in Mindanao should say their views to make a difference on the resolution and settlement on such conflict. I would like to share mine grounded in my modest philosophizing, which begins from my “philosophical” view of the Old Testament. This can be viewed and interpreted from various angles of the readers because they could never existentially transcend their subjectivity.

Pre-Historic Origin of War and Peace

From the pre-historic time, the twin phenomena of war and peace have always been seasonal and rational phenomena with humankind. Perhaps, we can trace back the pre-historic beginning of war and peace in the Old Testament. The purpose is to show that the conduct of war and the pursuit of peace in the conflict areas of Mindanao between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine Government have a pre-historic beginning, and to study whether the pursuit of peace could be definitively achieved in those areas and elsewhere in the country and in other countries of the world. Moreover, the term “Islamic” has underlying religious ideology.

Both the New (Second) Testament of Christianity and the Qur’an (Third Testament) of Islam have their common biblical origin at the Hebrew Bible (First Testament). I think, therefore, that it is fitting for me to start my modest philosophizing from the First or Old Testament

The Genesis and the Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament

The Genesis of the Old Testament opens with the following narration: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth; darkness was upon the face of the deep and God said, ‘Let there be light’; and He saw the light was good: He divided the light from the darkness; He called the light Day and the darkness He called Night”. Philosophically interpreted, we might say that God is the creator of the conflict of opposites, initially Day and Night, and such conflict is found in every level and order of Nature. Thus, at the level of humankind, God created man in His own image and likeness (meaning, He created man with a freedom of choice as He had a free choice to create him or not). He created man into male and female, with their freedom of choice to obey or not. Given such freedom, God commanded them: “Of every tree of the garden, thou may eat freely; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat; for in the day that thou eat thereof thou surely die”. But they eventually chose to disobey God’s command and consequently discovered their inherent inclinations toward good and evil. The opposite inclinations toward good and evil that are inherent in man’s nature are the underpinning principles of war and peace, which are collectively manifested in war and peace among men. Our act of choosing actualizes either one of the inclinations. Which means that peace could be achieved only “by men of good will”, and not by “men of bad will”.

The Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament declared the phenomena of the underlying dialectic in the nature of man: “To every thing there is a season, a time to every purpose under the sun; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace”. The twin phenomena exclude each other yet remain inseparable because they complement each other to give us the meaning of our human existence. We could never appreciate love except in relation to hate and vice-versa; likewise we could never value peace except in relation to war and vice-versa.

Change of Paradigm for the Peace Process in the Mindanao Conflict

The deeply entrenched mutual distrust based on biases and prejudices appear to have been the paradigm or framework of the peace processes in Mindanao. Let us say that the mutual distrust is the two sides of the same peace process, as though two sides of the same coin. But the mutual distrust is extrinsic to the pursuit of the peace process, which appears to hinder rather than enhance the pursuit of peace. There is, therefore, a need to introduce a new paradigm to the peace process.

I have thought and reflected with my reason (not with my emotion) that there is existential wisdom in the paradigm consisting of “a time of war, and a time peace”. War and peace, along with love and hate and the other opposites of human life, are inescapable contradictions inherent in our natural and moral life. Said differently, we, as natural and moral beings, possess inherently the principles of unity of opposites. Accordingly, we should align and attune our mood and mode of rational thinking with the fundamental contraries inherent in our nature. We should view the various forms of conflict in the peace process as nothing but collective phenomena of the fundamental conflict inherent in our nature as human individuals. Accordingly, the fundamental conflict inherent in our human nature should be the paradigm that ‘lies behind’ the negotiations of the peace process in Mindanao. Ancestral domain and religion are issues which are not inherent but extrinsic to our human nature. Certainly other paradigms may be added to enhance the proposed fundamental paradigm in order to ensure the attainment of a lasting but not a permanent peace.

There is no doubt that every one in the conflict areas of Mindanao yearns for a lasting peace.. Yes! A lasting peace is possible, but a permanent peace is impossible. And a lasting peace is truly possible, only if the peace negotiators on both sides are men of good will.

A New Mood and Mode of Approach to the Peace Process

There are three moods and modes of approaching the peace process: a) let emotion prevails over reason; (b) let reason prevail over emotion: and (c) let symmetry between reason and emotion prevail. The third mood and mode would be more consistent with the seasonality of war and seasonality of peace in my proposed paradigm, but which definitely requires the “bracketing or suspending” of historical, cultural, political, legal, religious, and social biases and prejudices of the negotiators on both sides.

I realize that “bracketing or suspending” one’s biases and prejudices are unconventional to those who are addicted to traditional and conventional mood and mode of rational thinking. “Bracketing” is unconventional and non-emotional mood and mode of rational thinking. By “bracketing or suspending” their biases and prejudices, the protagonists in the peace process allow their minds to open to many possible and positive things; but an open-mind approach is difficult to people whose mind-set remains conventional and traditional.

Starting Point of the Proposed Paradigm in the Peace Process

The negotiators should proceed in the context of proposed paradigm with the presupposition that the human persons should be in a position to live in order make a “history of war and peace”. But, before making such a history and before every thing else, life involves food, clothing, and shelter. These are the physiological needs of man which he must satisfy before satisfying his higher needs, because his needs are arranged naturally in a hierarchical order. The physiological needs are the most potent of human needs. Unless these potent needs are truly satisfied, man would not proceed to his higher needs. And these potent needs might explain the Moros’ desires to reclaim their ancestral domain in Mindanao where they envision themselves cultivating their lands for food, clothing, and shelter which are essential to their self-survival as people in an environment of relative peace and harmony. The thorny issue on ancestral domain should be taken as a phenomenon of their self-preservation as a people.

Laws of Dialectic in the Peace Process

We can actually observe and verify that in the whole of reality, there are contrary beings, which for being so exclude each other; yet they are inseparable as they are opposed to each other, and despite their mutual opposition they mutually inter-penetrate each other. This is the law of opposite. We encounter its phenomena among the protagonists of the peace process in the Mindanao conflict at every order and level; for examples, in the debates over a manner of settlement of peace, there are proponents and opponents; and in the battle between the MILF Forces and the Military Forces of the Government, there are victory and defeat. The contrary elements appear to exclude each other, but paradoxically, only from their conflict that their mutual development and progress are born. The development and progress of peace and victory in the process have no full meaning except in relation to their respective opposites, and vice-versa.

Moreover, we can actually observe and verify the progress and development of war toward its negation. There is no battle of war that ends all battles of war. One battle of war moves on toward its negation, just to begin a new battle of war. And the war moves on endlessly. This is the law of negation. But the negation of one battle of war is not annihilation of war, but it is such that it conserves all that it is of the positive and progressive in the preceding battles of war. Consider, for example, the “deadly instrument of war” as peace instrument being used toward its own negation - the weapons of medieval war consisting of deadly bows and arrows and bolos of indigenous Filipinos versus the deadly one-shot guns and one-shot canons of the Spanish invaders in 1521 are negated by the manufacture of the deadlier weapons of the MILF against the deadlier weapons of the Government Military Forces in the sophisticated wars prevailing in our contemporary society. Each war creates more deadly weapons than in the previous wars. New weapon of war as instrument of peace negate the old weapons, in terms of intensity and extent of damages to life and property, and the war moves on endlessly.

Finally, we can observe and verify the phenomenon of the law of transformation in society. Quality is an internal determination of a being which makes it what it is in a particular order of things. On the other hand, quantity is a determination extrinsic to the being. We can actually observe and verify that a quantitative and continuous development in reality terminates frequently by producing entirely new forms. Every being has a measurement; if that measurement augments quantitatively, it can exceed its limit of measurement, and then the living being ceases to be what it is and begins to be something else. For example, the transformation of fertilized human egg: when it augments until a certain limit, it is transformed into a human embryo; when this augments until a certain limit, it is transformed into a human fetus; when this augments until a certain limit, it is transformed into a human baby, and so forth and so on. Identity-wise, it is existentially the same being but essentially different being. The human baby is qualitatively a different being at its previous stages of quantitative developments; the human being had been transformed one stage to another stage of development. This phenomenon explains the necessity of revolution – the overthrow of the existing order. The law of transformation explains the need to do a paradigm shift because of the increasing volume of damages to lives and properties in the Mindanao conflict.

The laws of dialectic are universal; they have been studied scientifically and found to be true. These laws explain the various phenomena of the underpinning dialectic attendant to the peace process of the Mindanao conflict. We might say that these laws are superior to the Philippine Constitution, because this merely embodies the phenomenon of conflict expressed in the collective desire of all Filipinos to live in peace and harmony among themselves.


The task of professional philosophers beyond the classroom in the pursuit of a
lasting though seasonal peace should be to educate the protagonists and all concerned in the pursuit of peace and its process, in order to arrive at an enlightened choice when confronted by the moral dialectic of good and evil. There is moral dialectic of good, and one should be educated to choose the better over the good; and to choose the best over the better, because by nature we seek the best. There is likewise the moral dialectic of evil, and one should be educated to choose the lesser evil over evil; and to choose the least evil over the lesser evil, because by nature we always seek the least evil. Both modes of dialectic would bring the peace protagonists and all concerned to a seasonally lasting peace in the conflict areas of Mindanao. Toward this end, the philosophers should consider to carry out the following recommendations at different venues beyond the classroom:

• Adoption of a new mode of rational thinking from a dual point of view – (a) the existentialist point of view which refers to a mode of rational thinking that stresses the self-determination of the Moros in their homeland and their responsibility arising from their acts of self-determination., and (b) the materialist point of view which refers to a mode of rational thinking in the context of hierarchical needs and wants of people within the context of self-determination and responsibility toward their emancipation from social and political alienation in their homeland. The materialist perspective is one where the spiritual values are grounded in the material needs of man, being a substantial unity of material body and spiritual soul.

• Conduct of social action within the paradigm of “a time of war, and a time of pace”, where war is the drive and forces to maintain a stable and lasting peace, and peace is the drive and force to put war always in check.

• View all forms of conflict as temporal and seasonal phenomena of the inherent dialectic in human nature.

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