Mindanao . . . An Opinion

ameril-umbrakato-biff-afp-rappler

Ameril Umbra Kato, founder of BIFF. [Photo by Rappler]

by Taga Bundok

This is the opinion of one person who has spent some time in Mindanao, and has been paying attention for a while. It is not meant to be presented as “truth” or as the only possible valid opinion. There is a great deal that could be said and most perspectives deserve some attention.

First a wee bit history, as brief as I can make it.

The policy of sponsored settlement of immigrants in Mindanao did not, as is sometimes claimed, start with Marcos: it dates back to the American colonial period. It did accelerate dramatically through the 50s and 60s, to a point that by 1970 many formerly Muslim-majority areas were dominated by settlers, raising tension at many levels. Muslim land generally held no government-recognized title, with no legal impediment to giving it away.

A number of factors kicked the tension into outright conflict. In 1968 a bizarre plan developed by Marcos to infiltrate Tausug agents provocateurs into Sabah and eventually claim the province fell apart, ending with Army soldiers murdering a still unknown number of Tausug recruits on Corregidor. The Jabidah Massacre, as it was called, was a significant instigator for the formation of the MNLF and was one factor among others leading to the establishment of a formal Mindanao Independence Movement in Cotabato.

Violence between settler and indigenous militias flared up in the early 70s, particularly notable is the massacre of 60-80 unarmed Muslims, mainly old men, women, and children, in a mosque in Manili, Carmen, North Cotabato, which came to the attention of Muslim leaders in the Middle East and started Muammar Qaddafi’s support for Philippine Muslims. A number of encounters between Government forces and Muslim militias followed, notably at Buldun, and when Marcos declared Martial Law (September 21, 1972) and demanded the surrender of firearms in Muslim hands, general conflict broke out with the MNLF as the primary rebel force. From then until 1976 fighting was continuous and destructive. The Tripoli agreement, in 1976, was a temporary respite, leading to a fight-talk-fight cycle that lasted through the 90s, largely because Manila politics during the Marcos decline and after his fall were too chaotic to allow meaningful negotiations. President Ramos finally negotiated a peace agreement with the MNLF in 1996.

Hashim Salamat, founder of the MILF, broke with the MNLF leadership in 1977 and was expelled in 1978, and formally launched the MILF in the early 80s. The short and easy version of the split is that Salamat was more radical and disapproved of the Tripoli peace talks; that’s not entirely wrong but it is oversimplified. MNF founder Nur Misuari is a Tausug; Salamat was Maguindanao. There was a strong perception that Misuari was favoring his fellow Tausugs and not being open about division of money received from foreign sponsors,  and that any Misuari-brokered peace deal would see Tausugs in power over the Maranao and Maguindanao, who in general consider themselves more advanced and more sophisticated than the Tausug. Also Misuari came out of UP, and imbibed much of the left sentiment that prevailed there at the time; his main foreign connection was to Libya and he openly aspired to a Libyan-style “Islamic Socialist” structure, with himself, naturally, in the Qaddafi role. Salamat came out of Al Azhar Universtity in Cairo with a doctorate in Islamic theology, spoke Arabic fluently, and was a full-fledged Islamic scholar who considered Misuari’s secular and socialist ideas incompatible with his beliefs.

iqbal inquirer

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. On a tight rope, and it is unsteady. {Photo by Inquirer]

 

So, without excessive details, there was a split on ideological and tribal lines. Misuari’s deal in 1996 was as much a payoff as anything else: favored MNLF leaders got profitable positions in return for “peace”. Less favored MNLF members were excluded and disgruntled. The peace deal delivered money and power to the favored, not much for the less favored, and no improvement in governance or development. The MILF maintained the goal of independence, and kept fighting. At this point, there is no doubt that the MILF was embracing an Islamist agenda and there were connections between the MILF and Al Qaeda and JI. The connections were sometimes tenuous, as the MILF leadership remained focused on the domestic conflict and its separatist goal while the foreign movements had bigger dreams of caliphates and union with Middle Eastern extremists, but a pragmatic trade of refuge for training did continue and there was movement of fighters in both directions, despite differences in goals.

Fast forward a bit… by the early 00s Salamat was singing a more moderate tune and openly discussing negotiations; he formally renounced the use of terrorism in June 2003. How serious that was is open to doubt. It was never really established, because Salamat died (heart attack, age 70) just a few months later.

Salamt was succeeded by Ebrahim Murad, at that time military chief of staff for the MILF. Murad was a substantial change from Salamat. He came from the military side of the MILF, not the ideological side. He studied in the Philippines, not the Middle East, and was about to graduate as a civil engineer when he left school and went underground, days after Marcos declared martial law. He is by reputation a thinker, a quiet man who is not known for charismatic and vocal leadership. He does not make powerful speeches. He has a reputation as an effective and capable military leader who sets aside the near-suicidal “juramentado” bravado that has sometimes crippled Moro military efforts, and was never afraid to withdraw or disengage when he felt he didn’t have an advantage. He is generally credited with bringing the MILF through Erap’s cinematic “total war” with minimal damage: Erap had his camera moment eating lechon in Camp Abubakar, but the MILF’s main forces lived to fight another day. Philippine government and military figures generally applauded Murad’s appointment, viewing him as a serious man who could be talked to.

Of course Murad had, and has, internal issues. He had rivals for the MILF leadership, many of whom would not hesitate to use whatever issues they could find to challenge him. Not everyone in the MILF was keen to negotiate: some wanted to stick to secession as a goal, some were Islamic radicals who opposed any concession, some were just rivals for power who were all too happy to accuse him of selling out if it advanced their personal interests. Murad was able to consolidate formal control, mainly because most of the military commanders remained loyal to him, though serious questions remained over the loyalty of some base commands.

signing-group

The Basic Bangsamoro Law moving forward. An international effort to craft peace . . .

 

Murad negotiated with the GMA government, concluding in a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA/AD), which was received with considerable fanfare among the MILF support base, until the Philippine Supreme Court shot it down. That was a serious blow to the leadership of Murad, who had staked a great deal on negotiation only to have the rug yanked from under him just as the celebrations were getting underway.  The agreement did have issues, but the perception was that the MILF had negotiated in good faith and the Government had gone back on its word. That to me is not unreasonable: maybe the government had promised more than it could deliver, but that was not the fault of the MILF. Shortly after the rejection, several MILF base commands formally broke away and formed the BIFF, which took the position that negotiation was futile and war was the only way. The BIFF promptly went out raiding and made a mess.

The BIFF is a real problem for Murad: he knows they want to supplant him and would probably kill him given a chance, but he also knows that many of his people are related to many of their people, and that a full-fledged campaign against them would produce a crippling internal schism and make him appear to be a complete sellout for fighting against his own kind while issues with the common enemy remain unsettled. The chosen course was to try to manage them, and force or persuade them to at least stop raiding and stay on their own turf.

When the Government rejected the MoA/AD my own suspicion was that peace talks were done, that Murad would not be able to get the internal rebels under control and get talks back on line. I was wrong. He wasn’t able to get the BIFF to disband, but he was able to rein them in, stop the raiding, and keep them on their own turf, hopefully until he could bring home an agreement that would undercut their narrative and prove that negotiation works. There were still issues with loyalty in some base commands, but the organization held together enough to go back to talking despite having been screwed the first time around.  Negotiation started again, this time with Aquino, with results we all know about: the BBL proposal. If Murad comes home empty handed again, I don’t see how he can continue trying to negotiate: he will either be displaced by someone more militant or forced to abandon negotiations and revert to war in order to hold control. He has more at stake than anyone.

And then of course there’s Marwan, and those like him, who made connections with MILF field operatives back in the day when cooperation was common and who would not hesitate to work behind the backs of the central command. I do not know whether or not the MILF central command knew where Marwan was… it is likely that they knew, or perhaps had a good idea but didn’t want to know. That too was a very equivocal position. If they ordered base commands with already tenuous loyalty to turn over Marwan, the command would be refused. If they tried to force the issue, they’d be seen as traitors turning on their own kind. Given that choice the easiest course of action was probably to not know. Whether that makes the MILF command coddlers of terrorists or hostages to a reality they couldn’t change is another question.

And now… well, we all know what happened. The MILF may have been able to persuade or compel its fringe commands not to go out raiding, but there was no way it could keep them from responding when armed men showed up by surprise in their territory in the middle of the night, nor could it make them back off once the fight was on. Controlling an explosion in progress is not an easy thing to do.

Ironically, the MILF leadership and the Philippine Government seem to me to be in similar positions. Both see the real advantages in peace, even imperfect peace. Both also have to contend with a populace that has no trust for the antagonist and which in some cases would prefer war. This I suspect is more a problem for Manila: if the Muslims choose war it will be on their turf and they will suffer; people in Manila can shout for war from a safe distance. In America they speak of “chicken hawks”: people who call for war but would never consider exposing themselves to its consequences. The Philippines has them too.

Both sets of leaders have to contend with internal rivals who will do anything to gain advantage against them, and who are eager to treat any attempt at peacemaking as selling out or cowardice. Of the two leaders at this point, Murad probably has more at stake. Aquino will get abuse and political struggle; if Murad comes back empty handed again, and gets displaced, his life may well be forfeit.

I do not believe that there was anything conspiratorial about this last raid: I think intel was received, a decision was made, and things went wrong. There is an old saying in military circles: “no plan survives the first contact with the enemy”. Mike Tyson once said pretty much the same thing: “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. In this case the plan went about as wrong as a plan can go.

So I do not believe in conspiracies, or that this was deliberately calculated to derail peace talks. Still, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. If peace talks collapse and war begins again in earnest, the gain of Marwan’s death (if indeed he is dead) will be a small thing. Marwan can be replaced; lots of people know how to make bombs. The only ones who gain from a return to war are the radicals who favor terrorism, who will find fertile ground for recruitment and a new generation of violent, radicalized individuals. 44 deaths are a great tragedy, but a small taste of what a return to general war would bring. What do we expect to gain from war that’s worth the expected deaths, the billions in expenditures, and the general distraction of the AFP from external defense?

War is awful but at times necessary; this I do not dispute. The decision to go to war is perhaps the gravest decision a government can make. It should not be made in anger, or as a reflex. Questions must be answered. Every war has a political objective. A war is won not when the enemy force is defeated in battle, but when the political objective is attained: as my own country has learned, you can win every battle and still lose a war. The first step to winning a war is to have an objective that is clear, specific, achievable, and fixed. It the objective is vague or nebulous, how does one achieve it? If an objective is not realistically achievable with armed force, war is futile, as the US learned when it sent an army to transform Afghanistan and Iraq into democracies, a goal that from the start was unachievable with armed force and was probably not achievable at all. An objective must be fixed: there is no faster route to disaster than ephemeral and shifting objectives, the justly dreaded “mission creep”.

So for those who want war… what’s the objective? Is it clear, specific, achievable, and fixed?

It might be worth noting that groups like the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf are among the most strident opponents of the peace process. Should we not think twice before giving them what they want?

I’m not sure how best to do it, but to me it is urgently important to throw some kind of a bone to the negotiation-minded factions in the MILF, before they lose all credibility with their own people and are either replaced by more radical leaders or forced to go back to war themselves. They have tried twice to negotiate… how many failures can they bring home without being tossed aside?

It is of course true that the MILF leadership cannot promise full peace from all at all times… but isn’t a half step toward peace better than a full step toward war? It the government can make peace with someone, somewhere, and show that peace can work, show that peace can bring the progress, development, and justice that have been so lacking on Mindanao… wouldn’t that example be a more effective weapon against extremism that any tonnage of bombs?

Of course such an effort is not guaranteed to work. Making peace is hard, and delivering progress, development, and justice in the face of entrenched feudalism is even harder. If we wait for a plan that guarantees success, though, we will wait forever, and while we wait more people will die.  I do not believe that we honor the dead by piling more corpses on top of theirs.

 

Comments
255 Responses to “Mindanao . . . An Opinion”
  1. edgar lores says:

    *******
    1. Beautiful – not in what is described but in its insights and perspective.

    2. The conclusions and the forward strategy are tenable.

    3. Thank you. This is a must-read. In the smoke of the surrounding noise and confusion, this brings a refreshing and clearing wind of clarity.
    *****

    • josephivo says:

      Edgar, your 1,2 and 3 are all very correct.

      Joeam, for me this is your best article so far.

      • Nadine Navarro says:

        Agree. Very insightful and informative article.

      • Joe America says:

        Commendations to guest contributor Taga Bundok. Readership would confirm your evaluation. It’s rippin’. When Jim Paredes gives a plug to an article for his 100,000+ twitter audience . . . well, people stop by for a look . . .

        • 1Philippines says:

          Remember that the US did not become a great nation ’til after the civil war.

          • Joe America says:

            Well, you say the same thing to three people. Trust me, people here are not stupid and they can read it once and grasp your point.

            The United States became unique the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. It has since progressed to gain democratic enlightenment through many conflicts, including the bloody Civil War. Most would say the US became great as an outgrowth of WW II, during which she marshaled all of her industrial might to build war equipment and arms. She was strong at the end of the War whereas others were battered. But greatness is relative to the eye of the beholder. Today, we can all agree, the United States remains unique.

            Your point is that bloody civil war is needed to get to unity. Maybe the US got it wrong. Maybe if they had had a BBL initiative, that horrid engagement could have been avoided. Maybe it is the Philippines that is doing it right.

    • Pallacertus says:

      As a denizen of Get Real Post, that site could use some of this article. Well, all of this article. Or why not more? For a site steeped in vehement antagonism (in ways I wouldn’t specify for what I hope are obvious reasons), I could use some help convincing people that multiple non-prejudicial perspectives are good, and shooting them down in fevered pursuit of all-out revenge isn’t.

    • stephen says:

      Please cite the sources of the article, if there are… Had it not been for a call from somewhere else, I would have been in some position in the navy.

      Fidel Castro’s choice to attain what he calls as liberty from oppression is to wage a guerilla warfare (watch his youtube interview). He was convinced that there is no other way to move passed the problem but to wage war. There are similarities and differences of the struggle he fought for and those that the Muslims in Mindanao have experienced. One similarity is that the Muslims in Mindanao is that they also chose to form their army which is ready to wage war against the government of the Philippines to attain their objectives. However, the difference is that to wage war against the government is not the best choice. They can do other more productive and democratic things in order to get the attention of the Phil. Government.

      Let us check briefly what took place. Most of the remnants of those who fought from the side of the rebels in Mindanao during the Marcos regime have been misinformed and misguided. They have been strongly convinced that dealing with the Gov’t is futile when it comes to receiving the benefits of development. Many have become disgruntled. Impatient of the trickle down effect of an improved economy, many chose the quick path. They formed their own government with their own military power to challenge the Phil. Government. Many times, they used this military power to support the extreme terrorists who are also among their ranks and relatives from the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf. The gain received by the BIFF and Abu Sayyaf are also enjoyed by the MILF. In other times, they themselves show to the Phil. Government that they have the power to govern the entirety of their so-called territory. However, no matter how we view it, all these groups are still rebels. So long as they have not surrendered their weapons of terror, they are still called as rebels. There is only one government in the Philippines governed by one Constitution and common laws. In my view, these rebel group should be the one receiving the demands of the government. after all, the government is viewed as the neutralizer of negative externalities. It is viewed as the mother or father who takes care of all its children, the inhabitants. these rebel groups have no right whatsoever to demand to the government what it should do at the detriment of other people. If they have some issues, let them do it in a democratic manner and not in a barbaric way terrorizing the people of the Philippines or protecting international terrorists.

      Had I become a navy officer, I would be willing to fight wisely against all forces from within or without the country that would try to undermine the soundness of good governance. If I were the Philippine President, I would give these rebel groups the choice that if they surrender, they will received appropriate social benefits. At the same time, an ultimatum shall be given that if they chose not to surrender, all the military might of the Philippine Government shall be unleashed to all of them. Because, their non-surrender means the continuity of terrorism in Mindanao.

      The political strategy is to stabilize the peace and security of the region so that true development would, little by little (depending on investors and government resources), take root and blossom in this war torn region of the country.

      My fellow Filipinos in the south, please lay down your arms now if, indeed, you are a true peacemaker. Surrender those who killed the SAF and dishonored their bodies. Let justice reign. There is a hope for you to be integrated in the free society of the Philippines. Lay down your arms and let us all pursue your valid and legitimate needs, concerns, and issues. Lay down your arms even before the enactment of the BBL or any law pertaining to it. This is your way of showing you sincerity that you are for peace and development. The BBL will not be the determining factor whether your region will develop or not. It will be by your collective cooperation in a democratic and peaceful manner that will give you the victory over the issues and concerns you sought to violently fight for. Lay down your arms and let’s talk. Afterall, what is a government that would ignore the plea of a thousand inhabitants. Lay down your arms if you are a true member of this country, of this legitimate government.

    • mike says:

      Sometimes simple/basic logic solve complex problems, since everything starts in a simple. Finish the and sign the peace negotiation and let them police and solve their simple and grand problems, finish each other neck etc. In the meantime rebuilt our military arms (Israel) that is combat ready for external conflict while they spent their bullets among each other if that will be the case (labas na tayo dyan). If they make trouble outside of their homeland, them we can be ready this time to teach them a lasting lesson.

      • Eric says:

        You know what the government does to unarmed resistance? They murder them. Best example is Hacienda Luisita. Was there any justice served there yet to the slain farmers? How long has it been? I’m no pro rebel. Just shedding some light on what the government does when it has the upper hand.

    • 1Philippines says:

      Remember that the US did not become a great nation ’til after the civil war.

  2. Christine says:

    Yeah, I agree. This is a must-read.

  3. JunF says:

    Good reply to instinctive and shrill war cries from Manila-based “intellectuals” who could be very brave by proxy

  4. sonny says:

    It seems from the article that there are more areas for moderation and negotiation here in Mindanao than the extremism elsewhere in Europe and Africa and the Middle East. Indigenous Muslims here are not tainted by the bloody history of Islam in those areas.

  5. Bing Garcia says:

    It might be worth noting that groups like the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf are among the most strident opponents of the peace process. Should we not think twice before giving them what they want?

    It is of course true that the MILF leadership cannot promise full peace from all at all times… but isn’t a half step toward peace better than a full step toward war? It the government can make peace with someone, somewhere, and show that peace can work, show that peace can bring the progress, development, and justice that have been so lacking on Mindanao… wouldn’t that example be a more effective weapon against extremism that any tonnage of bombs?

    • Joe America says:

      Very powerful point, Bing. I see the Philippines as being a leader in Asia with the ITLOS filing, standing for what is right, peace and laws as a better way than guns to argue things out. It certainly is a better approach than China’s relentless provocations. The BBL could also be something similar for the entire globe.

      It’s too bad these initiatives can’t carry more weight than the President’s scheduling choices.

      • Jake says:

        I don’t really see how ITLOS can really help. At best, it is “ceremonial”. Say that the ITLOS sides with the Philippines but China defies it. What now? The UN has no tooth. The UN can’t even resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

        BBL something similar for the entire globe? About creating a state within a state? It makes more sense to actually let go of the provinces that wants to secede rather than have a law that can potentially create an infighting among the Moro tribes

  6. Victorino Saway says:

    Good points for reflection! The writer provides us a a wider perspective on the burning issue. Thanks!

  7. Gee Ibanez says:

    Very insightful article to ponder upon. I can now look at Mindanao in a whole new perspective. Stocking up my knowledge in its history is a good start.

  8. For those who want to learn more about Mindanao-Sulu region may I recommend the book “Iranun and Balangingi by James Francis Warren (New Day Publishers). Not easy to read but it gives one insight on the history of that region.

    • sonny says:

      I would also recommend PHILIPPINE SOCIAL HISTORY, Alfred W. McCoy and Edilberto C. de Jesus, published by Asian Studies Assoc. of Australia, 1981. (Includes three articles on Mindanao by Ronald Edgerton, Jeremy Beckett, James Warren)

  9. Ronald Bingwaoel says:

    Well said but shit happened just like the SAF 44! Personally , i would conclude an all-out war first then the Peace Talk Can resume after !!!
    How about that??

    • Steve says:

      This article offers a perspective that might be useful:

      http://www.mindanews.com/mindaviews/2015/02/01/commentary-but-what-shall-we-do-with-the-fallen120000/

      What makes you so sure that people who want to talk about peace will still be around after your all out war?

      The tale of the SAF44 is indeed grim, but how do you think they felt about the Malisbong 1500? Sure, that was in 1974, but I doubt they’ve forgotten. I don’t think I would forget. Did they ever get justice?

      • annabelle silvosa says:

        how easily people forget. you are right. . how about all the other hundreds of casualties of war and “non-war” in mindanao, those muslims and indigenous tribes victimized and brutally killed by state forces espousing and defending big business for mining, industrial and dam interests? indeed, the happening led to a sorry loss of lives destroying careers and families of promising officers, but there’s still a war raging. and will continue to rage when ill-meaning forces give vent to knee-jerk reactions as media people interject their ‘opinions’ like horses with blinders and cross over from newscasters to news commentators, imposing their biases over factual information.

        • Jake says:

          A lot of them are brought by the immigrant warlords to Mindanao. Private armies of the immigrants to Mindanao, although some are also Moro warlords. Ampatuan and Mangudadatus, remember?

    • Dora Cuare says:

      This article gives enlightenment to those who do not know. But to fight peace can not be attained unless these 13 tribes can be at peace of themselves first.

  10. Steve says:

    I’m sure the author of the article has read all of these and more, but for those starting on the process… If I were going to prescribe a reading list, it would start (but not end) with these:

    “Mandate in Moroland” by Peter Gordon Gowing is the best generally available work on Mindanao during the American colonial period

    “Revolt in Mindanao: The Rise of Islam in Philippine Politics” by T.J.S. George, was written in 1980 and is thus somewhat dated, but is an excellent look at events to that point.

    “Muslim Rulers and Rebels: Everyday Politics and Armed Separatism in the Southern Philippines”, by Thomas M. McKenna is pretty much essential reading.

    “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao” by Marites Vitug and Glenda Gloria… written by journalists and thus sometimes short on the structure and analysis, but probably the best locally produced overview,

    All of the above are widely available in the better Philippine bookstores.

    “The Tausug: Violence and Law in a Philippine Moslem Society” by Thomas Kiefer is excellent but very hard to find. All of Kiefer’s work on Mindanao and surrounding islands is worth the effort.

    There are many others; this would be a starting point aimed mainly at providing context and background. There’s a great deal to be found online, but there’s also a lot of nonsense online, the context and background (together with a healthy does of skepticism and an active BS antenna) makes it easier to sort out the wheat from the chaff. A great deal has been written by people close to the conflict who have strong opinions; this material is IMO worth reading but it’s best do have that background and context first. As always, one reads to provide raw material, one thinks about what one read, and tries to synthesize it, to arrive at an opinion. The thinking part is just as important as the reading part.

    Or of course we can just read some stuff on Facebook and arrive at an opinion that way, which is easier and more fashionable, but maybe less effective!

  11. Outlier says:

    Reading comments here is always a welcome break from the toxicity in inquirer and rappler comments sections.

    • Marlon S. Limjoco says:

      This is very enlightening intellectually made MUST READ ARTICLE for everyone and should have serve as one of the foundation of peace negotiation backgrounder for the government representative in the formulation of peace agreement. ….

  12. PinoyInEurope says:

    At the end of the day, it is all typical Malay tribal politics. The Philippines is a collection of Malay tribes, those who primarily call themselves Filipinos are those who were under Spanish colonization and therefore became Catholics.

    Those who were closer to the capital city during colonial times, the Tagalogs and the Kapampangans, are a bit higher in the hierarchy of tribes, but this is nothing special – in Indonesia you have the Javanese on top and those from Sumatra second, while those from Irian Jaya are at the bottom and those from East Timor managed to separate, being Latinized and Catholic like the Filipinos and therefore different from the Islamic majority in Java and Sumatra.

    Marcos, an Ilocano, managed to begin integrating non-Christian tribes into the nation in a mixture of brutality followed by negotiation and yes pay-offs (the second part was often by another president, but hey America also did it that way very often, usually a Republican followed by a democrat) – the Igorots and the Tausugs are one primary example of tribes now integrated into the framework of the nation. The Maranao were for example also given a role and many top people of that tribe were given their share of the spoils – a continuation of the Spanish strategy with the rajas and sultans they encountered. Those who cooperated got a piece of the action, those who resisted faced heavy reprisals.

    If one looks at present-day Filipino politics, it is still very tribal, ahem regional. And not too long ago, it took a dictator to centralize power and break the power of warlord armies in the Christian part of the Philippines. Crisologo and others were the Christian equivalent of Ampatuan, hardly different from the warring rajas and datus of pre-Hispanic times. The shifting alliances between chieftains are nothing new either – Raja Humabon and Lapu-Lapu were somehow related, they fought and then became allies again, one sided with the Spanish and one went against them, then they both fought the Spanish when they noticed that they were weaker, or for all we know they both were trying to play the Spanish – or look at how the Katipunan and the later leaders of the Philippine revolution first rebelled, then killed each other, let themselves be paid off by the Spanish, then fought the Americans, then killed each other, while some made their deals with the USA, some earlier and some later: the game has not changed for centuries.

    Before modern states, Malay dominions were shifting alliances, often with a “paramount datu” calling himself sultan or raja ruling over the others, but that rule very much depended on the person wielding the power and how he managed to command respect from his chieftains. Manila was officially under Brunei rule, with Raja Sulayman married to a relative of the Bolkiahs and Islamic, but he and his family converted to Catholicism and became loyal Spanish subjects when they noticed that they had no other choice and got a good deal from Legazpi. In the end this is what the Philippines has remained to this day – paramount datu Marcos managed to gain the respect of all non-Christian tribes except the Maguindanao. Looking at Indonesia, with its centralized model of statehood and the brutality it used to consolidate the non-Javanese tribes, and Malaysia with its federalism and rotating kingship, the Philippines is somewhere in between. The problem I see is that BBL sets the wrong precedent – either you have some degree of federalism and give ALL regions some measure of self-government or you have centralism. Giving those who resist the most more autonomy only encourages those who want MORE. Especially from radicalized Muslims who see Christians as weaklings anyway, especially the Christianized Filipinos for having been colonized by the Spaniards. And especially Noynoy, who might just be too modern and appear too wimpy for even the average FIlipino to respect him. It took a very strong figure like Magsaysay to gain the respect of the Huks in the 1950s, a ruthless figure like Marcos to integrate Tausugs and Igorots in the 1970s – I suspect that a President like Binay or Duterte would be able to integrate the Magindanaos – the first would give them a piece of the action hehe, the second would give those who are on his side recognition and respect and those who oppose him living hell.

    • Bert says:

      ” ….and those who oppose him living hell.”

      “…those who survived…”, isn’t that what you mean?

    • Bert says:

      “And especially Noynoy, who might just be too modern and appear too wimpy for even the average FIlipino to respect him.”—-PinoyInEurope

      Too wimpy you say? I think you’ve been away a bit too long already you’re not aware of what Pres. Noynoy did to the Muslim troublemakers in Zamboanga. Or you’ve been misled by his amiable appearance.

      • PinoyInEurope says:

        I wrote that he APPEARS too wimpy, not that he IS too wimpy. Politics has a lot to do with influencing people and you do influence people one way or another by the image you project.

    • Joe America says:

      Very interesting reading. I must confess, I am wholly out of place here. I view macho as being forthright, organized and productive. Here it is best expressed in dominance. Both Binay and Duterte do have a certain capacity for dominance.

      • PinoyInEurope says:

        Your definition of macho is very American of course. The Filipino definition of macho is more similar to the kind of dominance plus ruthlessness displayed by Vladimir Putin. Erap was of course the Philippines answer to the drunkard Boris Yeltsin.

        • Joe America says:

          Yeltsin ahahahaha. I liked Khrushchev myself, a pudgy drunk with nukes in his pocket pounding a shoe on the desk at the UN. I can’t find a likeness among Filipino leaders, actually.A cross between Santiago and Estrada perhaps.

      • PinoyInEurope says:

        Come to think of it, the thing Philippines and Russia have in common is centuries of serfdom and therefore people who are not used to shaping their own destiny, different from Americans with their pioneer attitude based on self-reliance. People like that will look for strong men to lead them, even if these strong men are brutal and/or steal from them. Filipinos in addition to that are often like children, easily swayed if the leader is nice to them. Changing the basic attitude of an entire nation takes a lot of time and is never easy. I feel that the only way is to fetch people from where they are, Joe you may be right about many things but the majority of Filipinos are still on the other side of a deep and wide river.

      • Pallacertus says:

        As an aside.

        Is this… er, what to call it… backhanded compliment on Duterte’s governing style in line with your comment on Duterte being “erratic” a couple of articles ago? Of all the adjectives that would describe Duterte, “erratic” is not a word that would come to my mind at all. But then again, I’ve never stepped out of Luzon, and he’s rumored as a presidentiable, and the man on the street has good things to say about his handling of Davao City, so better to know what makes you think of him as, well, “erratic”.

        • Joe America says:

          I think to threaten to kill the next person who suggests he run for president one day, then a couple of months later start to warm up for a presidential run is erratic, both in content and emotion.

          • Joe America says:

            I like his no-nonsense approach. His aggressive postures, collaboration with the NPA and tearing congress down for a parliamentary structure, are too radical for me. I like push from where we are, not rip and tear politics.

    • Steve says:

      Marcos didn’t “integrate the Igorots”. The Igorots fought a substantial war with Marcos, over the Chico dams and the Cellophil project, and the Igorots won: both projects were abandoned. I don’t see much evidence of Tausug integration either; the Tausug remain poorly integrated to this day,

      Marcos also didn’t break the power of warlord armies, he just replaced the warlords hostile to him with warlords who were friendly to him… or were, until his power started to slip. I saw the late Marcos years in person, and saw a lot more disintegration than integration.

      • PinoyInEurope says:

        It’s all relative: the war with the Igorots and the Tausugs is basically over, the war with the Maguindanao is not. One third of the 44 fallen PNP SAF police were Igorots. The only two Muslims among the Fallen 44 were Tausugs.

        Marcos did manage to centralize power, at least for a while – the Javanese approach. In the long run, the Malaysian approach, meaning federalism, might work better for the Philippines and lead to more sustained development.

        The core of the problem remains that there is no real Filipino nation, just ethnic groups with a common government that is a legacy of colonialism. OK Christianized lowlanders that share a long history of Spanish colonial rule with each other and a short common history of American colonial rule with Muslims and animistic tribes. And an elite that inherited its privileges from colonial and post-colonial times and tries to keep them.

        • jake says:

          I think it is too much of a stretch to claim that BBL is “indeed” a step into the right direction. The Philippines could fall into a trap of disintegration. If BBL happens, it could be the road for other regions to demand the same. Central Visayas, Cebu in particular, have this streak. Let us also forget the MNLF (Ironically not mentioned by the writer who gave a detailed history) opposes the BBL. Zamboanga City bore brunt of it. You think they will be willing for their ARMM to be dissolved? That the Tausug be replaced by Maguindanaos?

          There are big problems with the BBL. It did not require the shut down of the arms factory on the MILF, just decommisioning of a few number of firearms, exclusive of other groups especially the MNLF, and it comes off that the too brass of MILF has no control over their troops. Is this the kind of group they want to govern Bangsamoro? A group tied with international terrorists and from time to time, mutilates bodies of their “enemies” (not always government troops)? What would the government do should they break away from their peace agreement with the government?

          I’m afraid we’re just running in circles here. “Peace talks” that just seem to give birth to splinter groups.

          The irony here though is that the entire country is pushing for more secularization, but allows in the BBL Sharia Law?

          • carlcid says:

            You have a point. I would like to add further that the concerns and interests of Christians, Lumads and other Moro tribes have not been thoroughly addressed by BBL. I am bothered by the indecent haste being applied our own negotiators and by the MILF to approve this BBL. They are framing the debate to one between “peace at all cost” and “all out war”. Nothing can be farther from the truth. There can be peace, but it has to be comprehensive and fair to all stakeholders. Fearmongering by both the GRP panel and the MILF, citing the immediate approval of the BBL as a pretext to avoid war, is devious and dishonest.

            Moros, Christians and Lumads have waited for a long, long time to be able to come up with a “modus vivendi” that would eliminate misunderstandings and frictions between them. It is reasonable enough to ask everyone to wait until a more inclusive agreement can be forged. By forcing a half-baked deal down the throats of the Filipino people, more complications and antagonisms will ensue. And more rabid hostilities will follow.

            Having said this, it would also be wise if less concentration of economic and political power is centered in Manila. The Philippine leadership, and the people, must find ways to break the tentacles of overcentralization and allow the provinces to have more economic and political leeway.

          • bendiskurso says:

            You would have to wonder whether a deal with Murad, granting that he is indeed a moderate among the MILF leaders, is sustainable.

            My precondition for genuine peace talks is for the rebels to lay down their arms. That area of Mindanao is not ruled with tyranny. If at one point it was, it no longer is the case. If anything, it is ruled with neglect, and neglect alone does not justify carrying war-grade weapons.

            No I would not advocate all out war like many commenters in yahoo. But I would not put all my eggs in the BBL either.

            Here’s a thought though: all those armed Muslim groups are geared for war and they obviously do not recognize the authority of our armed forces. What are they if they are not separatist? And what should a slow and bureaucratic often corrupt Manila government do when faced with such a challenge to its authority? Give autonomy to just one area in Mindanao? Or take the initiative to implement federalism across the whole archipelago?

        • jake says:

          That is because 65% of SAF are from the Cordilleras and the region has schools that have strong Criminology courses. Access to education is better over there (remember that the Tausug in the SAF are from the affluent Zamboanga City) than in Muslim Mindanao. You could see the literacy rate between the two regions are rather glaring.

          The Igorot success is not because of Marcos’ integration, but their own hardwork. The Igorots, it seems, have largely avoided the warlord mentality that plague the lowland people. If you go over there, you’d see their politicians just like ordinary people. No bodyguards or whatsoever unlike Señorito Junjun Binay. And if you have ever been around the Igorots, they like to distinguish themselves from the lowland people.

          Marcos even gerrymandered the old Mountain Province (yes the entire Cordillera was one big province) distributing them into the Ilocos and Cagayan Valley but such move of Marcos strengthened their unity as highland peoples…

          I wonder why the Americans treated the old Mountain Province differently from Mindanao. They encouraged immigration to Mindanao but not to the Cordilleras. Does it have to do with the headhunter image? Or was it because they were less trouble?

          What Aquino needs to do here is to really be accountable. But then, he has a penchant for blaming others. But usually it stops there. He held no one responsible for the botched Manila Hostage Crisis rescue. It could have been avoided if the right strategy was implenented. His administration did not file cases even when he was recommended to do so.

          This bungled operation has so much abnormality in the chain of command. The president knows of this operation but not the DILG and top brass of the PNP? To make things more complicated, Napeñas said that he was getting orders from Purisima, an Aquino family friend who is reportedly in Saipan.

          • Steve says:

            Immigration to the Cordillera may not have been encouraged because the mountains are extremely difficult to farm.. Central Mindanao is much more suited to agriculture.

            There are many Cordillerans in SAF, I have heard many explanations, one is that the schools here offer courses aimed at police work, also that the rugged terrain and strong work ethic produce people who are much more prepared for rigorous physical training. This is true: the Igorots are the Sherpas of the Philippines, and their level of physical capability on the average is very high.

            One reason for the different political culture here is that even in pre-colonial times the Igorots never had a “datu” culture… no headmen, and no concept of inherited power. The tribes were run by councils of elders, and the councils were made up of elders of proven capacity. Your position in society was a function of your achievements and the respect you earned. On top of that, in many parts of the Cordillera the first lasting contact with the outside world was with American Episcopalian missionaries, who stressed education and made a point of providing very good schools for everyone, not only the prominent. To this day issues in many Cordilleran towns require town meetings, and it’s not at all uncommon to see ordinary residents getting in the face of the officials and speaking their minds, in ways you would never see in the lowlands. The Igorots know respect, but they don’t defer to anyone and they do not grovel. I may be biased, having married an Igorot and having lived in the Cordillera for quite a while, but it is to my mind a rather healthier political culture.

            To this day the town I live in will not allow anyone who is not from this town to own land or do business here. Manila investors and Koreans have tried, sometimes offering large amounts of money. The answer is a polite no. If they keep trying, the answer is a firm no. It is really best not to push it further.

        • Steve says:

          The Tausug are still at war, or at least something that isn’t peace by a long shot; they are anything but integrated. The Igorots have integrated on their own terms, and they certainly weren’t integrated by Marcos: they were probably less integrated when he fled than when he took office.

          The problem of cobbled-together “nations” with borders inherited from colonila caprice is not unique to the Philippines. The problem is of course exacerbated when minority groups are perceived as something less than human by the majority.

    • Jake says:

      The Igorots are not integrated to Manila, they are integrated to the American countryside. They love country music and cowboy stuff over there…everyone there knows who Dan Seals and James Taylor are. Lowland people only know Taylor Swift.

      Speaking of Music, the song Dayang dayang was not actually Indonesian as believed in the Philippines. It is originally Tausug music.

    • Maria Adelina Arocha Torres says:

      I took time reading this…. and it was worth reading I convinced myself….. It was objectively written…. PEACE in Mindanao and the consequences of bringing along Peace…. ❤

  13. Joe America says:

    This write-up, to me, gives personality to the conflict, and internecine rivalries of incredible complexity and viciousness. So poor, so much ego to fight for the right to . . . have nothing.

    The best solution is a growing economy in the areas designated for BBL territory. I believe there is an interest in the non-fighting population for the bloodshed to end. That would seem to lend Murad some small measure of support. The fathers and mothers of the fighters who are also tired of seeing their sons come home in bags or boxes.

    The Aquino government is putting more money into the region and I hope it continues.

    It also struck me – the ease with which Manila residents cry for war – that Manila is full of wild-eyed lunatics not unlike American Republicans. Nation builders. Warmongers. People taking exceptionalism to new heights. Yet they go nuts over a battlefield loss.

    And have to find a culprit.

    They ought to buy a big mirror.

    • PinoyInEurope says:

      People in Manila feel that they define what is Filipino and do not really know or care much about what is outside the Capitol. Definitely a legacy of (post-)colonial centralism. This is why I see federalism as the solution in the long run, even if Manila nationalists fear that it will cause the nation to fall apart. Yes it will cause central power to fall apart, and if that was all that ever held the “nation” together then it never was a nation to begin with. More power to the regions would lead to more competition for business and investment, would in the long run decongest Metro Manila and would give the regions an equal voice in the nation.

      • Joe America says:

        For sure, Mindanao is a vast underutilized (unexploited??) area, and the Visayas get along reasonably well in spite of Manila.

        • PinoyInEurope says:

          This could be the smoking gun: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/109864/news/regions/liguasan-marsh-holds-billions-of-dollars-in-gas-misuari . The Liguasan marsh is in the contested area and natural gas is $$$.

          • Steve says:

            Actually that looks more like Misuari looking for a headline. He cited no source for the information, and there has been no organized exploration in the Marsh.

          • rey says:

            I am working in Korea as a design engineer for offshore, we were part of an offshore to explore the natural gas in SABA. SABA has a natural gas which is now being exploited by Malaysians. If only SABA was reclaimed by the Philippines, we should be the one who are benefiting on that natural gas. And yes it is true that there are Billions of dollar of natural gas in Maguindanao also. That is why they wanted to be separated to the Philippines. Do we want this natural gas to be exploited by Malaysians again? It all comes down to oil and natural gas.

            • Steve says:

              Again, the Liguasan areas has been slated for exploration but it has never pushed through due to security issues. Without exploration, there is nothing but a question mark… there may or may not be exploitable gas reserves.

      • Jake says:

        Not fair to “warlord” provinces. LOL.

        That being said, the benefactors of Federalism would be the power regions that exist right now. Laggard regions will remain laggard as they have a big problem in their LGUs.

        That said, imagine if present regions are made into states…who would rule the Ilocos state, the Marcoses, the Singsons or the Ortegas? Who would rule the Moro state? Misuari, Ampatuan or Mangudadatu? Will the Cojuancos rule the Central Luzon plains?

        How the Philippines had 60 provinces to almost 90 today is not a coincidence. It is a reflection of politicians wanting their own “turf”

    • PinoyInEurope says:

      As for the battlefield loss, I do unterstand why it hurts a lot. It is like Pacquiao losing, only a thousand times worse because 44 young men are dead. Very well trained, no doubt about that, but facing an enemy that is desperate and on their own turf, plus an enemy that has veterans who gained experience on global battlefields. Losing always hurts, especially if your best guys lose and even worse if they die, scapegoating is always easier than accepting that their best may not have been good enough this time. And of course most Filipinos from Manila do NOT see Muslims as REAL Filipinos, even people from Visayas are mocked for their accent when in Manila. Might very well be that there is no real Filipino nation, just an empire run from Manila for the benefit of a few elites.

      • Jake says:

        Pretty much how many Visayans and people who do not live in the mountains mock the Igorots. Better yet, non Aetas have long been mocking the aetas for “looking black”

        • Steve says:

          We get people coming to Sagada all the time who look around, and ask plaintively “where are the natives”? As if the Igorots are still supposed to be wearing bahag and carrying head axes. Although in fairness, there are negative stereotypes in the other direction too: I have heard the occasional reference to “taba-logs” or “tanga-logs”, and there is a general view of the lowlanders as lazy and corrupt. Prejudice cuts both ways.

      • Joe America says:

        “The occupation of the oligarchs”, is how some readers have termed it. Little different than Spain, America or Japan being here.

    • gerverg1885 says:

      Those wild-eyed lunatic Manila residents who cry for war are those who do not seem to use some brains (or no brains at all) to thinks that in any war, it’s not only the combatants who suffer tremendously.

      And they still want to follow Estrada’s call for another cinematic “total war?”

      This article was very well researched and written so we come to know the segments of the history of the struggle of a people who will not stop yearning and fighting for their independence.

      Thanks, Taga Bundok!

      • PinoyInEurope says:

        What struck me is that only two of the combatants who died were Tagalogs and only one was from Metro Manila. http://www.interaksyon.com/assets/images/embed/2015/0131/infographic-mapofmourning-013115.jpg . This is very similar to the old Spanish practice of using troops from one region to put down uprisings in another.

      • Jake says:

        I also see the same rhetoric from Cebuano speakers in Cebuano forums. Not a monopoly of people from Manila

      • carlcid says:

        It isn’t wide-eyed lunatics from Manila calling for war. It is the majority of Mindanao residents who feel that the national government has been too soft, and has given away too much, with the BBL. Given away too much, with nothing assured in return. As this blog admits, “it is of course true that the MILF leadership cannot promise full peace”, and yet they are being given their own “assymetrical” state, their own set of laws and their own form of government, the lion’s share of revenues and their own militia which will easily be built into a well-equipped armed force.

        This isn’t just warmongering. It is an expression of frustration and anger at the Philippine government, which they view as too timid in the face of the MILF. It isn’t really a call to war, but rather a manifestation of being prepared for the worst, which in this case may mean war. But it doesn’t mean that they’re not still hoping for the best, which is a more inclusive peace agreement that gives all stakeholders something to be optimistic about.

        Joseph Estrada remains highly popular in Mindanao because of his “all out war” strategy against the Muslims. In the 2010 presidential elections, despite the baggage Estrada was carrying, Estrada still trounced Aquino in Mindanao. Until today, Estrada remains to be the most popular political figure in Mindanao because he has struck a chord with the majority of the people living there. This does not mean that the people of Mindanao want war. But they will not back down from war if an injustice like the BBL is forced upon them. Estrada may be spewing hot air, but the people of Mindanao are not bluffing.

    • Jake says:

      How can they grow if their local Moro warlords keep the people ignorant?

      High illiteracy rate, high unemployment, low HDI…

      I have a Maranao Muslim doctor friend who went to Maguindanao to do community work. And when she went to the city hall in one of the towns there, no one was manning the city hall.

      PCIJ has a good write up on how the biggest projects in Maguindanao are moving the capitols and building nice city/municipal halls

    • Romeo says:

      Peace process here in Mindanao will prosper if in BBL, all Muslim-Clan stakeholders are represented,not only Maguindanaoans’,the Tausogs’,the Maranaos’,the Yakans’. We people from Mindanao are at Peace with our Muslim Brothers what ever clans they belong. With our present political leaders they are best people who can drive and unite the whole Mindanao without the interference of “Imperial Manila”. What we need here is Federal form of government. In my humble opinion let the Tausog rule the Jolo-Sulu area,the Maguindanao area for Maguindanaoan’s,the Maranao’s for Lanao Norte/Sur,the Kutawato’s for Cotabato,the Yakan’s for Basilan et al,..with these Mindanao will progress more were Mindanaoa’ns (Christian,Muslim,indigenous People) will live more harmoniously than what Imperial Manila against to.

      • Joe America says:

        See my comment to carlcid. He voices the same view, and I have to adjust my thinking that Manila is all that matters. Maybe in time, what you want will come to pass. Not in my lifetime, maybe, but if you are young enough you still have a chance . . . 🙂

    • carlcid says:

      I don’t think it is mainly the people from Manila crying for war. A huge number of people from Mindanao feel left out of these negotiations. They are in the majority, as a matter of fact. These encompass Christians, Lumads and Moros from other tribes. However, they are not necessarily crying out for war. They are actually crying out for justice, because they feel that only a small group of people are going to benefit from the BBL in its present form. They want to hope for the best, but they are also prepared for the worst, which is war, if necessary. Being willing to accept war as an alternative to an injustice is not warmongering.

      There is a “bleeding heart” outlook that views the Moros as victims of “historical injustice”. That is a very myopic attitude which serves the purpose of only one group of people. From a historical viewpoint, Moros have been both on the giving and receiving side of raids, atrocities and massacres. As a matter of fact, some of the worst victims of Moro oppression are the Lumads. It is wrong to state that the Moros have ancestral rights to Mindanao. Islam is foreign to the Philippines. It is not a homegrown religion or culture. Christians and Lumads have as much rights as Muslims do. In reality, only the Lumads have any semblance of legitimacy to claim ancestral rights to Mindanao.

      • Joe America says:

        Ah, very good points, carlcid. I think if that small area can get settled down, the whole island will benefit. The day the US takes its warning against travel in Mindanao is the day when the economy there will start to blossom. I think Mindanao residents can play a big part in that by pressuring the rebels of any stripe to stop killing Mindanao’s hope. As I read this article, I sensed that religion is not really the point of the fighting. It is more territorial and ego.

  14. josephivo says:

    The missing element in the narrative is the 10 million dollar (or 10 million peso per casualty, quite a lot of money, especially when compared to the one million peso offered to the families…)

    To get the real motives in the Philippines, one should “follow the money”.

    • PinoyInEurope says:

      Politics is always business, and war is even bigger business. Follow the money is always good advice, not just in the Philippines. Every war is a turf war and your turf is where you earn a living.

  15. jao says:

    What you fail to discuss is the danger of the bangsa moro law is a shadow to sharia which even muslim nations like egypt syria and moderate islam nations fight against. The fact that MILF formed their own tribunal to investigate the massacre and is being executed via SHRIA LAWS is something to be truly concerned about. Thouhg you have a very comprehensive account of muslim insurgency in the ph, u fail to consider the dangers of a potential mindanao caliphate. Shalom.

    • PinoyInEurope says:

      That is the real problem. Autonomy would not be a problem, in fact I am for a federal Philippines meaning autonomy not just for Muslims but for all regions. Sharia is not only inhuman, it is against the constitution and against all modern democratic principles.

      • Pallacertus says:

        I don’t know about Sharia law being “inhuman” or “against all modern democratic principles”, but the MILF declaring it would pursue those responsible for the bloodbath at Mamasapano through Sharia — well, we’ll see what they mean by it in the coming days.

        • Jake says:

          Saudi style execution?

          Man, there might be a mass exodus of level headed Muslims from Bangsamoro if BBL is passed. MILF + Sharia does not sound good.

          • Pallacertus says:

            I was thinking of the kind of Sharia that was implemented in a few towns in western Sumatra a decade or so ago. Comparatively mild when it came to meting out punishments, and almost suggestion-like moralizing, though because most Indonesians believe in Islam they have the power of law– I’m only half-remembering it in any case. I think I have a TIME article on it; I’ll get back to you once I find it.

        • Jake says:

          Or it could be a puppet show due to the public uproar and trying to have a “good image”. After all, did they subject those who beheaded the marines under Sharia?

      • Joe America says:

        “Against the constitution”. Mormons in the US allowed multiple wives up to, oh the 70’s or 80’s I think, but ran into constitutional grief with the secular government. The religion bowed to the State, in practice. It can be done, for the sake of peace and harmony.

    • sonny says:

      @ Jao

      As I understand the caliphate, there is only one Caliph for the whole Ummah.

  16. annabelle silvosa says:

    wow, it’s been such a long long time since i have read such an incisive article with a historical perspective of our Mindanao. manilans, or mga taga-ilog should “try” reading this, open their minds a bit, or else be where the action is here, right here in Mindanao, outside the confines of the metropolis, outside their safety zones, to listen to their own heat beats and breathing when guns and bombs go blazing, when loved ones die right in front of them, or go missing never to return. ‘all out war’ … so easy to say for them. let them be in the forefront of the battles, let’s see what then.

    • Jake says:

      Ibanags are also “taga ilogs”. Ibanag means river dweller.

      What are you smoking? People from Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan and Cavite are Tagalogs as well….not all Tagalogs are from Manila. In fact, many Manilenos nowadays are not even native Tagalogs.

      • Joe America says:

        Look, Jake. You don’t get it. I detest personal slurs like “What are you smoking?”. What does that do, but create anger in another? You make points that are worthwhile. You splatter the blog with rejections of every other people’s earnest statements. You come in with attitude, not willing to listen. You test the limits of my patience. It takes great effort for me to reject spamming you because you have all the characteristics of a troll with a brain. Skip the troll. Use the brain.

  17. Pepe says:

    Sometimes we need to step back for us to leap forward. I think enogh time has been givern for peace. Almost 3 decades of of this insurgency is already too much. Much lives has already been sacrifices through the years. I would rather lose more to finally out an end to this terror than lose more in the hopes of acheiving a fake peace agreement arbitrated by Malaysia whom we all know has its vested interest over the south. We all want peace but enough is enough. Much chances has already been given and in the end we still find weeping families of soldiers lost. Lets give justice to SAF 44 and to the rest of the Filipino soldiers who died trying to achieve peace in Mindanao. Lastly, to those who wants a bangsang moro, accept it in your fate that you are in the philippines and this is how our country rules. Stop dreaming of an independent bangsang moro. Mindanao is Philippines. Period! If you dont like how its governed you’re most welcome to migrate somewhere else.

    • Steve says:

      Do you think anyone ever asked them if they wanted to be part of the Philippines? And do you think they don’t mourn for their dead, including the victims of many massacres that Manilans have long forgotten, if they ever knew about them?

  18. Maharlika says:

    my fellow country men, you should and must always use your one eye from the past and one eye to the future. You wouldnt even want your grandson someday to hold a gun or killed by bullets.. does you must learn to understand that there is no winner in war. Peace talk must be planned carefully and to those who oppose it will and must be subject under the law. I also condenmed too those who use their power and hiding their true intentions, when all they protect is not our fellow country men but some other country or some business pleasure only. You wouldnt even want your country men going abroad while foreigners with small eye enjoys the rich and abundant resources of the Philippines.

    • Jake says:

      Yes. But the thing is, this “peace talks” is more of a political trophy than real peace talks. The ASG, BIFF and especially Tausug MNLF do not like this BBL.

      Does the government plan to pit the MILF against the BIFF, ASG and MNLF?

      We’re just running in circles.

      Maybe, the solution is a la East Timor independence. UN sponsored referendum asking ARMM citizens if they want to secede or not and asking which provinces want to stay or go. At least with this, we are hearing the voice of the people, not just the voice of the rebel elites.

      • Steve says:

        The MNLF is so factionalized at this point that it can hardly be treated as a viable organization… it’s not even certain who speaks for the MNLF as a whole, if anyone does. The Misuari faction opposes the BBL because Misuari doesn’t want an agreement that he can’t control, and because he still wants to be recognized as top dog.

        BIFF and ASG are fringe spoiler groups who just want war. Leave them behind, contain them, and deal with them later.

        Part of the problem is that people seem to think a peace agreement will bring peace, all by itself. It won’t. It’s a start point, not a finish. After an agreement there will still be a lot to do on both sides, and there will be incidents. We need to look at an agreement as a first step in a positive direction, not as the end of the story.

  19. Arturo Alindada says:

    Thank you for this blog. It gave me a comprehensive perspective sans the usual bias

  20. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    Let us be blunt, the Muslims are violent people. What made them violent is their religion. They live with us and suck us dry of our sanity. Wherever whatever country any sane educated people go where there are Muslims, there are trouble. They do not assimilate. They cannot assimilate. They are troublemakers. Let us not gloss it over. They are troublemakers. May they be in China or Russia or in Europe or Austrlia.

    We allow them to live amongst us in the name of cultural and religious diversity .. but WE cannot live among themselves because they want us to become like them.

    • Steve says:

      Prejudice R Us… Been to Indonesia lately? Or Malaysia?

      Muslims hardly have a monopoly on violence, in the Philippines or anywhere else. Dressing violence up with uniforms and technology doesn’t make it any less violent.

      We associate Muslims with bombs. But going back to, say, 1970 or so, how many tons of explosives have been deployed by Muslims against non-Mulsims, and how many the other way?

      • bauwow says:

        @Steve, I don’t think MRP has a friend who issues him the latest movies on dvd in Quiapo. They even suggest a movie that might win the Academy Awards this year.
        They do not seem all violent to me. 😉

  21. Angelita Elizaga Coronel says:

    Like you, I’ve been following closely news about Mindanao I’ve just turned 71 and planning to retire in Cotabato where I spent my happy childhood. So happy to hear some good news when Bangsa Moro was created hoping for a lasting peace. I see the recent unfortunate incident as a part of the process, using the fallen 44 as sacrificial lambs making them heroes as they did not die in vain, exposing the enemy stronghold paving the way for a complete purge.Thanks for posting your smart opinion, very informative!!!

    • Jake says:

      How sure are you that the BBL will indeed create “lasting peace” given that the MNLF is a staunch opposition of this (of course, they don’t want their ARMM to be dissolved and be shifted to the control of their splinter group)? What about the BIFF and the ASG? How sure are you there won’t be “in fighting” between these groups?

      When division of religion cease to exist, it shifts to ethnic divisions. MNLF and MILF is primarily Tausug. MILF and BIFF are Maguindanaos

      • Jake says:

        Correction: MNLF and ASG are Tausugs

        • Steve says:

          She said “hoping for a lasting peace”. I don’t think anyone believes, or should believe, that the BBL will create lasting peace all by itself. It’s a first step. Many more steps will be necessary, but there has to be a first one.

          Of course the Negotiation-minded faction of the MIF doesn’t control everything, but they do control substantial territory. If peace can be made with them, and made to work… is it not possible that people in other territories might see some benefit in peace? Even if it doesn’t bring complete peace to every corner of Mindanao, if it can prove that peace works in pne area, that would be a huge step forward. Of course it will take more than an agreement to make that happen, but an agreement is a start.

          ASG in particular also has a large Sama presence.

          • Bert says:

            If the BBL is a first step to lasting peace and the next steps after that don’t work to attain the objective, will there be a way, a backward step if you will, to undo what has been done, to return to the place before the first step? If the answer is no, then this BBL will just be a monster created to sow more chaos in an already chaotic situation.

            • Steve says:

              At worst, we are back where we are now. At best, there is progress. Seems worth a try to me…

              • Bert says:

                Fair enough. I think this is a risky gamble to be taken by the government but… let’s just hope that if this BBL failed, the resulting damage to our dear Philippines is not irreparable.

    • Jake says:

      Let us also not forget the problem in Eastern Mindanao — the NPA.

      • Steve says:

        The problem in Eastern Mindanao is more similar to the problem in Western Mindanao than many would care to admit. The majority of the NPA footsoldiers are drawn from the Lumad: tribal people who have been pushed off their land, marginalized, and often badly abused by settlers and by government forces. Rebellion among Muslim Mindanaoans coalesced around relifion; in the eats it coalesced around ideology. The driving grievances are actually quite similar.

  22. bauwow says:

    Uncle Joe, Thank you for this blog!

    @Taga Bundok, your article here is like a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for writing, for it clears so many misconceptions and assumptions.I hope a lot of our people get to read this.

  23. carlcid says:

    I noticed very little, if at all, was mentioned about the Lumads. The MILF is very quick to pounce on “historical injustice” against the Moro people, as if the Moros were the only ones on the receiving end of raids, atrocities and massacres. Islam only predates the coming of the Spanish by less than 150 years, while the Lumads were around way before that. In reality, Muslim culture is foreign to the Philippines, not too different from Christianity or Spanish or American culture. Most of the Muslim nobility descend from foreign invaders, whether they were merchants, religious proselytizers or mercenaries. If any people can claim to having been the victim of “historical injustice” it is the Lumad.

    That is a serious bone of contention, because Philippine “peace negotiators” have all-too-readily swallowed hook, line and sinker the premise that “historical injustice” has been committed against the Muslims. By starting on that premise, one begins from a very defensive position. It is no wonder that these so-called “negotiators” gave away the farm, so to speak, and sold away important bargaining chips such as the Philippines’ historical claim to Sabah. What happened was a sell-out, not a so-called “peace nogotiation”. Furthermore, by negotiating primarily with only one group, the MILF, parochial interests were served, and the interests of other groups, such as other Moro tribes, Lumads and Christians were not given the attention they deserve. Mindanao is not just the Muslims, and certainly not only the MILF.

    When mention is made about “throwing a bone” at “negotiation-minded” MILF, that sounds like a joke. First of all, the MILF are not negotiation-minded, they went to the table with very explicit demands, with very little wiggle room. The Philippine negotiators have thrown away much more than bones. They have thrown entire carcasses in exchange for very little. As is conceded, “it is of course true that the MILF leadership cannot promise full peace from all at all times”, yet they walked away from that table with virtual sovereignty over their territory, the lion’s share of revenues, their own laws and system of government and even their own militia, which will certainly be beefed up to a well-equipped armed force. Peace is certainly everyone’s object, but capitulation without even a shred of assurance that the objective will be met is foolhardy.

    This isn’t about “peace at all cost” nor about “all out war”. The premises taken make it appear as such. This isn’t about firing shots in anger, as the MILF has been wont to do. It’s about peace with justice. It’s about fairness to all sides. It’s about painstaking, well-thought-out negotiations that take all stakeholders into account. That’s what it’s about. What it isn’t about is doing half-measures. About rushing to conclude a “peace deal” at the point of a gun. It certainly isn’t about making sweeping statements that “if we wait for a plan that guarantees success, though, we will wait forever, and while we wait more people will die”. That sounds like someone in the throes of having “Stockholm Syndrome”.

    Peace with honor, justice and fairness can be achieved. It may take time. But half-baked deals will only be worse. Not only will there be no peace, it may give rise to a Frankenstein that will devour the other stakeholders. It is already happening.

    • Steve says:

      If you look at the evolution of the negotiations since the beginning, the MILF position has been adjusted many times, and they have backed off on many issues. They got a good deal less in the BBL than in the MOA/AD, but they still agreed.

      Certainly the Lumad and other groups have interests and issues of their own, but one peace agreement with one combatant is not meant to produce universal peace across the island. It’s just meant to bring peace to some areas and open a framework for settling other conflicts. It’s a beginning, not an end in itself.

      • carlcid says:

        A very controversial beginning, it must be said. This agreement begins to look more and more like a ‘Hail Mary pass’ with each passing day. We cannot rely on ad hoc solutions “meant to bring peace to some areas and open a framework for settling other conflicts”. That sounds pretty piecemeal. If that doesn’t work, it’s almost impossible to turn back the clock. Half-baked solutions do more harm than good.

        ‘All out war’ isn’t desirable, but neither is ‘peace at all cost’. Why the indecent haste to come up with an agreement? All sides have waited long enough. It’s worth waiting longer for a better, more inclusive agreement. Warmongering isn’t the way to go. But fearmongering with statements such as “if we wait for a plan that guarantees success, we will wait forever, and while we wait more people will die” is just as unacceptable.

        As for the MoA/AD that was patently unconstitutional, so that should not even be a point of reference. This new agreement has glaring unconstitutional infirmities as well, so why are the so-called “peace negotiators” pushing the envelope? ‘Peace at all cost’ is just another word for capitulation and sellout.

    • 1Philippines says:

      Remember that the US did not become a great nation ’til after the civil war.

  24. Clart says:

    The article is well-written though there are a lot of hypothesis and assumptions.
    but, I cannot still erase from my mind that the US and other powerful countries have hidden motivations why they support Philippines in pursuing peace in Mindanao – that is the untapped natural minerals and oil in the area. I give shot for the benefit of the doubt.

    • Joe America says:

      Hi, Clart, welcome to the blog. The US is approaching energy self-sufficiency, which is largely why the price of oil has dropped as Saudi Arabia tries to drive US shale oil producers out of business. To my knowledge, no Filipino minerals go to the US, but a lot go to China. The US interest in Mindanao is to get terrorists and stop them from coming back. The best way to do that is peace and economic rejuvenation of an area that is extremely poor. Poverty is the bed in which terrorism thrives. The Philippines also stands as an important bulwark of democracy in an area dominated by a totalitarian state. So the US wants to see that democracy thrive. It is amazing to me that so many see the US as a threat when the US wants nothing more than to see a free, economically healthy, democratic Philippines. That is American interest Number 1. The complainants generally argue history (which is long gone) or trees (VFA) and intentionally or accidentally fail to see the forest.

  25. John Joe says:

    Muslim had a strategy to rule the world kill all the unbeliever the same as the Roman Christian did before. Its a battle of religions. If you don’t agree with me goto http://www.politicalislam.com you will learn how the Muslims creepe into your land

    • Steve says:

      The Muslims didn’t creep into the Philippines. They were here from the start. It was the settlers from the north that crept into their land.

      • carlcid says:

        I am afraid that there is a “bleeding heart” outlook that accepts the Muslims as being part of Mindanao from the start, and that Muslims are victims of a “historical injustice”. That is the line peddled by the MILF and, unfortunately, it seems that the Philippine panel in the “peace negotiations” swallowed that line hook, line and sinker. I say ‘unfortunately’, because by buying into that story, the peace negotiators were immediately put on the defensive. Victims are entitled to compensation, so give the MILF what they ask for.

        Islam came to the Philippines in 1380, via an Arabian trader who reached Sulu. This was only about 150 years before Christianity reached our shores. In historical context, 150 years is not a great deal. It certainly was not at the “start” of history. Islam is actually a foreign culture and religion imposed on certain parts of the Philippines. It is not homegrown, unlike the Lumads. The Muslim religion is as foreign to the Philippines as Christianity. Or Spanish and American culture. So the Muslim religion did “creep” into the Philippines. The only ones who have a semblance of legitimacy to being homegrown to the Philippines are the Lumads.

        • Steve says:

          Islam came to the Philippines by conversion, not conquest. The tribes that converted to Islam were already in the area; they just adopted a new religion. Islam came to the Philippines from abroad, but the Maranao, Maguindanao, and Tausug were already there. They are homegrown, even if their religion is not. Similarly, just because Christianity is not indigenous to the Philippines doesn’t mean the Tagalogs or Ilonggos are not indigenous to the Philippines. Adopting a foreign religion doesn’t make you foreign. A Filipino who converts to Judaism is still a Filipino.

          The conflict is really not about religion, it’s about land and political power, and about indigenous populations marginalized by settler populations. Where the indigenous people were Muslim,religion has become a rallying point for resistance. The Lumad in the east have often turned to the NPA: most of the NPA’s footsoldiers in Mindanao are Lumad. The grievances are the same, the resistance takes a different form.

          • carlcid says:

            The Muslim nobility, the top in the pecking order, is descended from foreigners, whether from Malaysia, Pakistan or Arabia. The converts are the serfs and commoners.

            • karl garcia says:

              I like your informative exchange, you only pointed out what’s missing in each comment.
              Way better than hearing “you are wrong and I am right”.

            • pinoyputi says:

              @ carlcid I apreciate your comments. You are the first who shows decent knowledge about the history of the south. Some people that were there for a while seem to know it all. The moro’s raided the other islands already before the spanish arrived. They kept behaving as pirates for centuries. Not only did they raided present day Philippines but also present day Indonesia and Malaysia, their moslim brothers. Also non-moslem tribes in Mandanao were attacked an enslaved. The economy was very depending on these raids. The land that was tiled was done by slaves which at times reached 50% of their population (sulu). Slaves did their fieldwork, housework and craftwork. Quote Kyoto University D. M. Non: without slavery the moro’s cannot live for it was the base of their wealth and happiness. The moro’s were and still are primarily (damned good) warriors and pirates. Negotiations should start from the strenght of the National gouvernment without the wrong outlook on the population. One secular law for the whole Philippines with respect for indigenous people but without weapons and terrorist.

              • carlcid says:

                Good point, pinoyputi! I really found it disturbing that the negotiators for the Philippine government, from the very beginning, swallowed the MILF line that Moros are ‘victims of historical injustice’ and therefore deserve to be compensated for being ‘oppressed’. Buying into that ‘victim’ card immediately framed the negotiations in favor of the Muslims and put the Philippine government on the defensive. The results speak for themselves, as the MILF obviously got the better of the Philippine negotiating panel. In more mundane terms, the Philippine government was ‘taken to the cleaners’. Early in the negotiations, the Philippine government was already put on a weak and defensive position.

                Moros always gave as good as they got. They were just as ruthless as their adversaries, oftentimes they were even more vicious. They were known to be cunning, cruel and daring. They often conducted raids on towns and villages all over the archipelago, plundering communities and kidnapping inhabitants to be sold as slaves. They were hardly a helpless, victimized people. If there were victims, it was the Moros at the bottom of the pecking order who were treated no better than slaves by the ruling classes. The Moro elite were very oppressive to lower class Moros. Moros practiced slavery and were heavily involved in the trading of slaves. They were certainly not adherents of human rights.

                This is not to say that Moro concerns should not be addressed. Moros, Christians and Lumads have a lot of common issues that need to be attended to. Foremost is the neglect from an excessively centralized government. While Manila is lavished with so much infrastructure, there is serious lack of roads, bridges and ports in Mindanao. Agriculture, which Mindanao has tremendous potential for, has little government support and attention. Mindanao is still the land of promise it was said to be. It has been exploited for its natural riches, yet getting little in return. This is not only a Moro issue. It is an issue shared by all stakeholders in Mindanao.

              • sonny says:

                I have referred to this earlier (Feb 3)

                “… Mindanao as essential part of the Philippines is due to the enslavement incursions of the Sultanate of Sulu beyond its hegemony and the consequent defense of Filipinos by the US and Spain.”

                The topic of slave trade conducted by the Sultanate of Sulu is covered extensively by James Warren, includes the slave routes taken by the raiding parties covering the whole Philippines.

  26. henricksays says:

    It seems that the burden for keeping peace in the negotiation falls more heavily on the shoulders of non-Muslim side.Let’s see…first there was the MNLF, then MILF,BIFF and God knows what splinter group will come out.The Muslims themselves have big problem in terms of forming a unitef front.Worst of all,they let the radicals hijack their religion opting to look the other way.But they are the first to complain and condemn whenever they are criticize .While it is true that their contention of them radicals who kill in the name of Islam do not represent their religion,these so -called responsible Muslims have a burden on their shoulders to condemn and ferret out and eliminate the unwanted elements of their religion.

  27. joseph joy baltazar says:

    A must read indeed. Thank you for the information. War is not a philosophical entity. War is charred,bloated bodies so horribly full of stench to regards as men or even former men.

  28. karl garcia says:

    Kudos Taga Bundok!

  29. Dave says:

    Dear Sir:

    What a great article. Informative and fair. As an extension let me comment. Modern history tells us that compromise is merely a step in the direction of total satisfaction or dissatisfaction, and almost never results in the final solution. Spain gave opportunity to the Philippines because it was cash strapped. The inch turned into a mile resulting in Independence. We can all say that we are happy with the outcome because we are satisfied. That is history has judged the outcome to be good. Pick any institution: such as unions, abortion rights, gay rights, women’s rights, and nearly compromise is followed by a compromise until a radical change from the status quo is a fait accompli. So why try to keep Bangsamoro? Is the reason truly nationalism; or is something more insidious? I think we need to take a top down, long term real politik look at the problem. There seem to be three options broadly classified. As you hopefully agree the first two are preferable to the third.

    If internal autonomy is the goal then national assets must have complete access granted by constitutional constraints and a Bangsamoro constitutional committee should provide the constraints. Personally, I feel such a committee should be made of political entities, rather than revolutionary entities, maybe Barangay Captains or town politicians.

    As you correctly state, military assets are an extension of politics. Dealing with MNLF, the MILF or BIFF is futile. Dealing with the CPP has been more productive than the NPA. Dealing with Sean Fein was more productive than dealing with the IRA.

    If internal autonomy is not the end goal the proceed directly to secession. Internal autonomy seems out of reach as most people currently believe there is no nationalist interest on either side in a correlated nationalist identity.

    In this case efforts should focus on granting secession to Bangsamoro with a treaty as a separation agreement spelling out secure borders and individual identities as a minimum. What then becomes the entirety of Bangsamoro is to the will of the Bangsamoro.

    Finally, on the darker side, if Philippines insistence on retaining Bangsamoro is purely for exploiting its natural resources, protection of Christians or buffer to more radical Malayan threats then the peace process is doomed and the end game must be nothing short of martial law in Bangsamoro. A truly tragic thought.

    Based on your thoughtful comments I would say Murad’s political intentions are well placed and its an oversimplification to say he is a former terrorist but he’s “our former terrorist.”

    It would seem that any outcome of the BBL will be counter productive to Mr. Murad’s efforts. It is not true that “a law that makes no one happy is a good law.” it just means it is bad law.

    In my humble untrained opinion, an alternative approach that may spring forth hope would to be to form a constitutional convention of elected mindanao representatives with Murad as President of the convention. Create an AFP/PNP joint task force created totally of Mindanaoans from Bangsamoro and adjacent provinces. This task force would prevent any outside interference, particularly revolutionary or political, and provide security in Bangsamoro for the duration of the constitutional convention. There is precedence for such activities in the breakup of the British Empire from 1776 to 1949. Many former colonies democratically chose to remain in the Commonwealth, sharing in a Commonweal, through a relatively peaceful process. The exceptions being the American colonies and what was once the Indian colony.

    The current processes, akin to making sausage, cannot prevail and lead to a satisfactory outcome. It will only pass the problem to future generations.

    One additional observation, again using a top down approach, quit killing young Filipinos on either side in trying to force a solution. I have a PNP brother and would hate to see his life wasted. The BIR should be brought to bare. Receiving weapons, aide or cash from individuals or other counties outside limits of Philippine law is income. Looking at the BIFF, MNLF and Ampatuan weaponry some substantial entities are delinquent in substantial back taxes. Paramilitaries cannot claim tax exemption, they are neither NGOs nor LGUs. Going after the back taxes is one of the oldest forms of taking down large organizations from the de’Mice in the 1500s, to Al Capone and now American drug lords.

    If the third detestable option above is truly the political dynamic, going after “tax evaders” may be the only way to save lives.

    Thank you sir for allowing me the white space to respond. I am merely inspired by your openness and fairness in analysis of the Muslim side of the equation.

    Respectfully,
    Dave

    • Steve says:

      I am not convinced that negotiation with the MILF or MNLF is necessarily futile. With BIFF or ASG I would agree.

      The negotiations with the MNLF were not futile. They produced a period of peace and an opportunity to create the justice and progress that could have produced lasting peace. That opportunity was, unfortunately, not taken. That to me doesn’t mean negotiation is futile. It’s just a lesson: a peace agreement is a beginning, not an end, and it has to be followed up with consistent effort toward better governance.

      I don’t think negotiation with the MILF is necessarily futile, as long as it is seen as a step, not an end in itself. If a peace agreement is signed, there will be a whole lot left to do to create lasting peace… but the job never started takes longest to finish.

      I don’t necessarily agree that “a law that makes nobody happy is a good law”, but I see the point. Where there is a winner there is a loser, and if someone’s happy it’s likely someone else is unhappy. If everyone gets a little less than what they wanted, there’s a good chance that a proposal is fair.

  30. Den says:

    I wrote a piece on my FB page yesterday. Sharing it here, I hope you don’t mind. But definitely, yours is just intelligent and spot on beautiful.

    An Uncertain Peace – The Mamasapano Bloody Clash

    A lot have been said already. Speculations abound the airspace and cyberspace. Here’s my own.

    The January 25 incident brought to the spotlight the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), an otherwise insignificant political exercise to the common Metro Manilan. That apolitical reaction is due because people from the North feel that the land and the people being stated here is too foreign to them. Or maybe because they don’t just understand the situation and the BBL itself. This goes both ways, I believe that the Bangsamoro people do not feel that they have strong affinity with their brothers and sisters up North.

    We need to see who the players and the future possibilities and repercussions of that Sunday bloodbath.

    Warriors on Both Sides

    There is no doubt that the Moro people are warriors. They have been living and protecting the same culture and religion even before the Spaniards arrived. For 300 years, Spain tried to steal their land and convert them to Christianity. Even the Americans came but failed as well. The Bangsamoro people have suffered so many atrocities from invaders and from their own countrymen (read: the massacre of Moro fighters, children and women by American soldiers – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Battle_of_Bud_Dajo) and (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilaga). But probably the last straw for them was the Jabidah Massacre. A concocted dirty war by then President Marcos to take Sabah from the Malaysians. Filipino soldiers on orders of their superiors massacred Filipino Moro Muslims that they themselves trained. This incident was the catalyst for the Bangsamoro Insurgency (Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front). What will you do if your way of life and family, land and religion that you love so dearly are in danger of being taken away from you? They did not start this struggle just because they want to, they were forced to take this path.

    The PNP-SAF is probably one of the best and bravest in the world. Their training is one of the hardest and very few earn the right to be called PNP Special Action Force. They are battle hardened. They are the ones being sent to missions too dangerous for ordinary police and military force. But you also see them during disasters and tragedies to help people in need. I had the privilege to meet some of our PNP-SAF (Cavite) in Tacloban a week after Typhoon Yolanda hit. They were there on orders to secure a hospital and prevent the looting of donated relief goods. They did not have enough sleep, food and decent bath but they helped bring order to an otherwise hopeless and chaotic situation, with no complaint whatsoever. They will follow orders to go to anti-terrorism missions for months at a time and be away from their families and love ones. You can’t help but shed tears once you think about the harrowing experience they endured on that fateful day. They surely feared for their lives, one by one they were shot on that Mamasapano field. One by one, they saw their friends fall from the enemies’ bullets. Muslim and Christian PNP-SAF died side by side. For hours, they waited for the rescue that never came. The PNP-SAF are the Tagaligtas of the Filipino people and we are in grief that this happened to our young brave men. We salute our heroes who sacrificed their lives so that we can continue with our own without fear and uncertainty. They are the best of the best, they deserve respect and better treatment from our government.

    The American Connection and the Mission

    The Americans admitted that they provided the intelligence to pinpoint the whereabouts of the wanted terrorists and even paid in cash the informant. I personally believe that this support coming from the U.S. is what we need against terrorist groups who wreak havoc on the lives of our countrymen in the south (Muslims and Christians). It is glaringly obvious that the Mamasapano operation was taken from the playbook of the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. The Seal Team Six mission that eliminated Bin Laden was done in utmost secrecy. Even the Pakistani government was not informed, intelligence report suggested there were Pakistani officials who knew of Bin Laden’s hiding place and were actually protecting him. They opted to bring in the Seal Team to kill Bin Laden rather than drop a bomb. The reason for this was to have evidence that they indeed killed him (they took pictures, DNA sample and documents from the safe house). Every move of that mission in Pakistan was monitored in real time by President Obama.
    Now let’s compare it with the Mamasapano mission. It was also done in secret to prevent any leakage of the said operation and cause an escape (again) of the terrorists. They decided to use troops to eliminate the target (they took photos and a finger of the terrorist Marwan for DNA testing). But unlike the Bin Laden mission, there were no high-tech choppers to drop our troops to the target area and pick them up again. They had to walk for hours just to reach the hideout of the terrorists. And walk back again to safety! Are you wondering why there’s anger towards our government officials? Because they did not give our troops enough firepower and support to escape cleanly after the mission. We support the elimination of all terrorists but our government officials clearly did not make a Plan B or even a Plan C. There were no tactical plan at all to pull out our troops if things gets awry, it looked like they were sent there to be slaughtered!

    The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)
    It is now known to everyone that Mamasapano is home to the MILF and BIFF. And we now know that their ties are not ideological but rather more of familial connections. When the PNP-SAF were retreating after their mission, they encountered both the BIFF and MILF. As reports mentioned, the MILF fighters claimed that they didn’t know who these enemies they were firing at. Let’s remember that MILF camps are also home to their families and children. They probably engaged the PNP-SAF to protect their community since they don’t know the armed men that entered their territory. They probably contacted the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) since they have an open line with each other but the AFP have no information and don’t know what’s going on. Whether it was a misencounter, an ambush or overkill, our government knew they were taking a dangerous gamble when they entered Mamasapano without coordination with the MILF and our own Armed Forces. That gamble is the reason why we are in this situation right now.

    The BIFF is an extremist group. It’s a breakaway faction of the MILF. Simply put, the MILF supports the BBL (http://www.gov.ph/2014/09/10/q-and-a-the-draft-bangsamoro-basic-law/) while the BIFF wants a separate independent state for the Bangsamoro people. They are different in so many ways. They even had armed conflict with each other. The MILF is a legitimate political entity that represents the Bangsamoro people.

    But here’s what bothers me. Compared to the MILF, the BIFF is a small group of extremist bandits. The BIFF resort to kidnap and ransom activities and terrorize the Bangsamoro land and its people. These illegal activities of the BIFF are against the laws of the MILF. The prickly question now is, why can’t they eliminate the BIFF who were harboring local and international terrorists? Is it because of familial ties alone? Or maybe the BIFF is the MILF’s lapdog. A group that will do the dirty work. A group that everyone can easily blame. If the MILF is indeed powerful enough to make the Philippine government sit down and make demands for the creation of a new Bangsamoro political entity, then why can’t they control their own territory against groups like the BIFF (?). I find it hard to believe that they didn’t know that there were terrorists being protected by the BIFF.

    The President

    Since 2010, the country have already experienced several tragedies. These tragedies needed the presence of the Commander-in-Chief to assure the Filipino people that everything is under control. But time and again, the President always lacked the backbone to take responsibility and manage the situation.

    In this case, I believe that the President lied to all of us when he denied direct involvement. He knew that the Mamasapano mission will happen that day. Just like what Obama did, I believe that the President was monitoring the mission. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were photos and videos showing the President in a war room getting real time updates, ready to be released once the operation was declared a success. Those evidences unfortunately will not see the light of day anymore. This mission was big enough to require the go signal of the President, big enough for the redemption of Gen. Purisima and huge enough to boost the sagging popularity of Sec. Roxas. This is a police operation with political implications. They were hoping to hit two birds with one stone. Kill a terrorist and create political superstars. This is not to be.

    The Media

    Most media corporations are only after high ratings to boost their advertising profits. They live for sensationalism. Majority of our journalists build their stories without any historical, political and anthropological reference or background. This is because they are not trained to develop such techniques. If you will observe carefully the social networking sites we use, there are countless Filipinos who will believe anything written in it. Even satirical websites are thought to be real and factual. Maybe Filipinos are innately gullible and the mainstream media take advantage of it. We all deserve responsible journalism. We do not need more hate. The death of all these people are traumatic enough for the nation and does not need extra fuel from the media to flood our feelings with anger. Our journalists should help teach our people to be more discerning when it comes to news like this.

    Where are we going?

    After this incident, these possible scenarios might happen:

    First scenario. The BBL will be passed. It is widely known that when it comes to natural resources, Mindanao is the richest region of the Philippines. It is also a fact, that investments coming from rich Arab and Muslim countries will flood the Bangsamoro land and its neighboring provinces once the peace agreement have been finalized. Malaysian companies have actually invested hundreds of millions of pesos already in Mindanao right after the Framework Agreement. They are planning to send more worth billions in the near future. The lives of the Bangsamoro families will be better in leap and bounds. There will be no more reason for an armed struggle. The BBL is vital for the Bangsamoro people to achieve lasting peace. Let us remember that our Moro brothers and sisters are not immigrants to this country, they have been tilling their lands even before our country became the Philippines. There will be no doubt that in the decades to come, the Bangsamoro land will be prosperous and will be an economic and political giant. Will they ask for more land and resources in the future? Right now, not even the MILF will be able to answer that.

    Second scenario. The BBL will be passed but extremist and terrorist groups remain. The global influence of terrorist groups like the Al Qaeda and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is far and wide no thanks to the internet. The peace between the Philippine government and the MILF will be strong but terrorist groups like the BIFF and Abu Sayyaf will remain to be a difficult challenge in providing the whole of Mindanao the peace it rightly deserves. The Philippine government can now concentrate their resources fighting and eradicating our country of these terrorists. Will the MILF join the fight against these groups? Or will they help hide such terrorists? Clandestinely supporting terrorism will anger their benefactors (rich Muslim countries who are also against terrorism). They don’t want that to happen. The number one reason why Malaysia, EU, Japan etc. is supporting the peace deal is because it will give stability to the region. They don’t want the hostilities to spill over the neighboring countries and affect their own security.

    Third scenario. The BBL will not be passed. A clear reaction to this despicable incident. An all-out war will ensue. Although with great casualties from the government forces, the MILF will be defeated. Their camps will be destroyed. Camps where families also live. Moro women and children will die. It will be a humanitarian disaster. The MILF, their backs on the wall will ally themselves with the terrorist groups and will plan their revenge. One of the mantra of these groups is to bring the fight to the doorstep of the enemy. Sleeper cells in Metro Manila will be activated. They will bomb the most important establishments in our cities. Government offices, hospitals, transportation system and to show their anger for the death of their children, they will bomb schools. The rising economy will be disrupted. Foreign investments will be cancelled. Tourists will not visit. Fear and Chaos. Are you ready for this kind of war?

    You. Yes us.

    How do we give justice to our fallen troops? I think this is the hardest question right now.

    Peace is now uncertain. But can we still give it a chance?

    I’m obviously not a journalist. I might be just paranoid. But maybe, paranoia is good right now. It gives us a view of dread and fear for the future. You may agree or disagree with what I wrote but what I want to know is, what is your stand? What really do you want to happen? Should we remain apathetic? They tell me it’s blissful on that side of the fence. Doubt crept inside me after this incident, doubt that peace will not be possible in the south anymore. Should we fight back? Not thru armed conflict but fight back to rebuild the trust again. Or is hope all gone? Is the animosity too strong it is beyond repair? There are angry calls in the social media that’s so distorted it’s borderline ethnic cleansing.

    I hope the Pope comes back and smack us right in the face.

    Breathe in breath out. Control. Peace.

  31. mindanaoan says:

    “many formerly Muslim-majority areas were dominated by settlers” — pray tell, where? Mindanaoans don’t like living near the moros, so that assertion is ridiculous. Just look at the current demographic. Most of the muslim areas have very few christians. The idea that the moros own mindanao is just a figment of their imagination. The moro lands is what they occupy today.

    • Steve says:

      In 1918 the province of Cotabato, which included what is now North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat, had 63,052 non-Muslims and 110,926 Muslims, 64.53% Muslim, per census data. In 1937 it was 711,430 non-Muslims and 424,577 Muslims, 37.37% Muslim, also per census data. How do you figure that shift occurred? Or look at the Kapatagan Valley, a fertile agricultural area in Lanao. In 1918 there were only 24 Christian settlers there. By 1941 there were 8000, and in 1960 there were 93,000, compared to only 8000 Maranao.

      Certainly the Moros don’t “own” Mindanao, as “ownership” is defined by law and Moro land ownership was generally not recognized by law, but there is no doubt whatsoever that the Citabato and lanao provinces, the Zamboanga provinces outside the ciy, and Basilan Muslims went from being a substantial majority to a minority, or that this shift was driven by settlement.

      When I spent time in the Cotabato provinces in the early 80s there were many alive who remembered these times, and their stories were very consistent. Harder to find personal accounts these days. I recommend Thomas McKenna’s very well researched book “Muslim Rulers and Rebels: Everyday Politics and Armed Separatism in the Southern Philippines”, chapter 6. You might learn something.

        • mindanaoan says:

          You confirmed what I said. The portions of Cotabato where the maguindanaos live is roughly the same as the present maguindanao province. That’s why the province was divided like it is. Same with Lanao.That’s why Lanao del Sur is 91% maranao. Zamboanga, while there are some muslim areas there, is the land of the Subanens.

          Statistics can be presented in a way to form a narrative, so please look closely.My contention is still that the present muslim areas are the only areas they can claim as homeland. The non-muslim areas we have today has never been muslim in the first place.

          • BFD says:

            Mindanaoan speaks from a current perspective and Steve is speaking from a historical perspective, so there’s really no debate there, both are accurate in their perspective.

            • Joe America says:

              Hey, what are you, BFD, a PEACEMAKER??!!! 🙂

              • BFD says:

                Aren’t we all? 🙂

              • mindanaoan says:

                The problem is, no one in the highest levels of government speaks for the mindanaoans. All they want is a deal, no matter what. Never mind that they are repeating the same tried and tired and failed old thing.

              • Joe America says:

                The MILF represents Mindanaoans at the negotiating table, for the region under discussion. There has been some dialogue, for sure, because I recall seeing the Mayor of Zamboanga say to the negotiators in no uncertain terms that Zamboanga did not wish to be a part of the BBL, and, as the map in the article shows, the city is not. I suppose broader representation would have to be through House members who are now looking at the document. I would hope the House Reps have had discussions with their constituents.

                This is the second attempt at carving out some measure of self rule for indigenous people. The first one failed Constitutional muster. This one is fit to the Constitution in many respects. How the Court will view it, of course, is up to the legal professionals. I think that the fact that two different Presidents have tried to articulate a similar solution suggests maybe the idea is good, not bad. Many nations have trouble dealing with indigenous people who were disenfranchised and impoverished over the years. What would you suggest as a better solution to bring peace and economic rejuvenation to the area?

  32. mau says:

    So educational and an eye opener to those who is so ignorant like me.. thank you for this article i realize how important to purse the peace negotation to us all.

    • sonny says:

      @mau I’m not being a grammar police here. I think you mean “parse” instead of “purse.” If you do, I agree with you about knowledge about our Muslim countrymen. I wouldn’t consider myself ignorant but rather I admit to spotty education about them. Firstly, I hesitate to call our Muslim countrymen, Moro or Filipino. “Moro” is emotionally loaded term. “Filipino” might not be acceptable to them because it is historically unacceptable to them and religiously loaded. Muslim Filipino maybe workable. For now I use Muslim countrymen.

      Secondly, for better or worse, our Muslim countrymen are geographically bound to the Philippines, a legal and physical definition from the terms of the Treaty of Paris. (The status of Sabah is another issue). Personally I accept the Treaty of Paris. My acceptance of the whole of Mindanao as essential part of the Philippines is due to the enslavement incursions of the Sultanate of Sulu beyond its hegemony and the consequent defense of Filipinos by the US and Spain. (I am still trying to find out who and how the 7,100 islands of the Philippines were counted! I suspect the answer is in one of the volumes of The Library of Congress on the Philippines 😦 )

      The divide between Filipinos and their Muslim country men will forever remain a fissure, in my opinion. It is forever until Islam and Christianity can spell out the terms of an ideological peaceful co-existence. Their theologies do not mix therefore many elements of their theocracies will not mix. As for governance – compromises must be hammered out on the desk rather than on the battlefields, I sincerely and hopefully pray.

      • Steve says:

        I don’t think it really is about religion, more about land, settlement, and the competing claims of settlers and indigenous people. The Lumad in Eastern Mindanao have many of the same problems and issues; but if they take up arms they join the NPA, while a Maranao or a Maguindanao would be more likely to join the MILF.

        In an ideal world, of course, the settlers and indigenous people could co-exist… but historically the indigenous people, both Muslim and Lumad, have been marginalized, abused, and disregarded by law and government… so, understandably, they fight. Maybe if the government could show that it can govern equitably the desire for self-government would fade, but it may already be too late for that.

        • sonny says:

          Steve, I am looking beyond the time when peace will reign among “tribes” of Mindanao. The fissure I refer to is part of the cultural legacy of Islam and Christianity. Saudi Arabia is exporting and financing WAhhabism. (I am also thinking of the past conflicts in East Timor.) Pakistan and Indonesia are the largest populations of Islam. The spreading of Wahhabism via the madrassas will surely find its way to Islamic Philippines. This is the slippery slope to terrorism and the reason why the US is helping contain its spread in the Philippines and elsewhere.

          http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/saudi/analyses/madrassas.html

  33. andrewlim8 says:

    Joe, I was thinking of mounting an “ad campaign” for this artlcle to draw more readers and contributions. Then I saw that the reposts and tweets had reached the thousands.

    I had already drafted tag lines like:

    “Tired of US or Manila -based warmongers? Check out Joeam.com. ”

    “Sick of toxicity? Go to Joeam.com. Where respect is given, but also demanded. ”

    “One liner insults don’t suit you? Go to Joeam.com. Where substantial discussions are encouraged.”

    🙂 🙂 🙂

  34. Leyte... HelloJoe says:

    fighting the financial infrastructure of terrorist groups in Mindanao is critical to their defeat.

    • andrewlim8 says:

      Agree. Which is why i will not buy pirated DVDs anymore. I am only half joking, some of their earnings really find their way to terrorist groups.

    • Leyte... HelloJoe says:

      Funding can come from the pork barrel , funds from the Oil rich terror countries , ransom money from kidnapping, drugs and other illegal activities.

    • Joe America says:

      Hello Leyte . . . HelloJoe. Nice screen name. Are you the guy who always yells at me during my occasional drive from Biliran to Tacloban?

      • Leyte... HelloJoe says:

        LOL, I’m a woman and I only yell if it’s necessary. I’m from the Southoriginally.. You know me from the past at another blog site . You shared your pics to me. 🙂 Leytenian.
        We were 5 years younger. Anyway, so glad to know you are well. The last time I was here reading your site was days before Yolanda..

        • Bert says:

          Hi, Leytenian. Glad to see your smile again. It’s been a long time, but the world is certainly round I supposed, :).

        • Joe America says:

          Oops, my face is red, Leytenian. Well, in those good old days, you were for sure not shy, and were one of the encouraging rational voices that kept me in the game. Now the game is a tad bigger. I started my own blog because both Bong V and benigno dumped me from theirs. I was such a troublemaker, after all, having ideas that differed from theirs. Thank you so much for stopping by. Makes me happy. Stay well, stay feisty.

        • karl garcia says:

          Hello Leytenian. I had a feeling it was you. Funny how time flies.

          • Leyte... HelloJoe says:

            Well hello Bert and Karl… Nice guys. JoeAm, I got tired of Philippine issue. Same old same old. The solution has been documented but SKILLED implementation is still lacking.
            Good day all of you. Will try to come back soon.

            • Joe America says:

              And blow-ups like the current emotionalism are assured of keeping the same o same o as wild-eyed rhetoric and sensationalist news becomes the drivers of decisions. Discouraging in the extreme.

              Take good care. Do visit. Sometimes I do humorous columns. ahahaha

  35. andrewlim8 says:

    I just want to commend “Taga-Bundok” whoever you are, you are definitely more than what your name implies. You are a mountain of wisdom.

  36. Joven Mabalatan says:

    Great piece! Thanks.

  37. Mariville Dimen says:

    Singing 🎶🎹🎶…give peace a chance…🎶🎵🎶
    Really a must read!

  38. Den says:

    I hope the common man can read this..so that they can arm themselves properly in street debates. Can anyone please translate this into Tagalog, Visayan, Maranao etc.?
    Let’s all channel that inner John Lennon in all of us..hehe

  39. yvonne says:

    Excellent reading JoeAm. My first ever comment here although I have been visiting your site many times in the past..

    • Joe America says:

      Thank you, Yvonne. I know you get around . . . wink wink. I can tell because you have such a clear perspective on things. The author of this piece, Taga Bundok, knows the Philippines inside out and I hope he will do further reports for us in the future. I very much appreciate your visit.

  40. okidok says:

    Very insightful, objective and sober analysis:)

  41. I like books authored by the Moros not by Americans. Many Moros are highly educated.

  42. meynardo santiago says:

    This is really a very informative article coming from a former Chief of Staff of the AFP: but I noticed that PH govn negotiators are composed mostly of personalities who don’t have stakes to protect in Mindanao. There is an old saying in conflict negotiation ‘to negotiate from a position of strength’: the PH negotiators who are mostly civilians do not have this in mind I believe. The different rebel factions should unite first so that there is a single entity the PH govn deals with. War will always be there no matter how small if negotiations is only with one group.

  43. Ben says:

    I agree..

  44. Rhodora says:

    Only the love of God and love for one another as He loves us will bring us peace.

  45. Mariville Dimen says:

    This seething tension that we see bursts into open war and violence in Mindanao between the government forces and rebels will always be something to expect when two warring forces trying to negotiate for peace don’t really trust each other’s word. So any slight flaw or mistake by one side insofar as heeding the terms of peace negotiation is amplified and blown out of proportion. The end result: continuous warfare.
    Trust must be earned before anything else. Peace starts and rests upon trust.
    🎶🎶🎶give peace a chance 🎶🎶🎶

  46. Glasnost says:

    noticeably this article has been an instrument of true intellectual discussion, may we achieve the much talked and funded peace in our country through actions that lead to unity and harmony. daghang salamat ug kalinaw sa atong tanan.

    • Joe America says:

      I may do a blog to your point, Glasnost. The tabloid press sees no value in doing articles that present deep information because it does not do anything for their circulation. But creating friction by sensationalist headlines and one-sided stories that play off against each other day after day does generate circulation. I think the Filipino reading class is starved for good information. They are smart and the tabloid press is dumbing everyone down to be little angry people whacking at one another.

  47. doc carlo says:

    For this reason you want us to surrender mindanao? Let MILF and BIFF rule… You are sick!

  48. I’d like to thank the author. Anger in some ways is driving people towards more knowledge of the situation and I think this article has done a lot to turn the tide of ignorance.

  49. Boholano says:

    Very nice and a must read article. Hoping this article will get more visits and readers. Mind and eye opener with the contributions of different people with their own personal insights! KUDOS to you Joe!

    On my own point of view, any form of government is good. But maybe 1 form might be more effective than the others when it agrees to the physical geography of a country it is governing. The issue maybe is about “us” us as a human person and part of that system. As the saying goes ” no human being is perfect” and the biggest imperfection that mostly what we human characterized is being GREEDY and DESTRUCTIVE.

    • Joe America says:

      Thanks, Boholano, yes, I welcome guest writers to freshen up this place, and Taga Bundok gave us a beauty of a perspective. It shows also that well-read Filipinos want a lot more legitimate, unbiased information and clear analysis than they get from the tabloids.

      I also agree with your second paragraph. It is not the form of government that matters. It is about honesty, earnest execution and adjustment, and accountability.

  50. D says:

    What is written here are accepted truth kudos! but pardon my ignorance with my question … do we not acknowledge the small efforts from both the government and private sectors and maybe some militant faction that actually resulted to change or a semblance of development?

    Will we just let those small wins go to waste? We hope eventually the real objective to continue talking peace is brokered as you said – into realistic objective and eventually peace prevail, if not then we’re back to the dark days, where is progress there if war happens again? War maybe necessary sometimes but I hope they take it out as an option this time.

  51. TW Husky says:

    In the widest possible European and US perspective, the Moro people of Mindanao are the bravest, most heroic and most prolific freedom fighters in history. They never yielded their culture and heritage and religious freedom over hundreds of years of foreign occupation and often brutal suppression. The US Army specifically owe the Moro people a deep apology and gesture of remorse for their horrific actions of 100 years ago. Perhaps it is time for these kinds of thing to happen. Perhaps owning and sharing the truth from history as this author so brilliantly did, is how we get past hundreds of years of misguided hate and war against the honorable Moro Muslim people of Mindanao.

    • Joe America says:

      I’m curious, TW, about this apology you want. I’m afraid it is something I can’t grasp. I agree that Americans 100 years ago were racist and did despicable deeds, not just in Mindanao, but across the countryside. Americans today, other than the few that are overseeing the tactical mission to help the Philippines suppress terrorist gangs, have absolutely zero idea of what went on, and zero complicity. So the need for apology is strictly a Moro or Filipino hang-up, an excuse, a reason for harboring anger when there is no need to. Sure, Americans could say the words you want to hear, but it means nothing, I think. Because they didn’t do it, and they’d just be playing the political game to get Moros or Filipinos to calm down and get constructive. So why don’t they just calm down and get constructive? Why do they need an American apology to treat themselves well?

      • Pallacertus says:

        Because sometimes saying sorry is all people want before moving with what lives they have. It seems immature (and in most respects it is immature), but a verbal or written apology does much to remind those on the hearing end that those muttering or scribbling said apology are leagues removed from the oppressors that their mothers and father used to fear and loathe and kill in spite.

        It’s still an excuse, it can still be played around by cynics, but at any event it can be understood.

        • Joe America says:

          Yes, that’s true. But I don’t see why doing good works should have to depend on an apology. That’s like, okay we are hurt because we never got an apology, and so we will hurt ourselves some more.

  52. chit navarro says:

    This morning, while I was preparing to go to work, I heard the guest in the TV news this morning saying : “If you remove CULTURE from this people, then they will revolt because CULTURE is the one basic thing that binds us all together. He was referring to Maoris and “Māori culture is an integral part of Kiwi life and adds a unique, dynamic experience for visitors.” We are celebrating the Treaty of Waitangi Day this Friday.

    So I remembered the Moros and the Muslims in this conflict. That they have fought all the foreign invaders (Spanish, Americans, Japanese) and still are left with nothing to call their own because when the war has settled down, the Ilocanos & other ethnicities / tribes moved to the Land of Promise which is Mindanao and settled there. Somehow, this local migration displaced the Moros and the Muslims from their land because the new settlers were able to have their landholdings documented / titled.

    I believe this sense of CULTURE is provided for and taken cared of in the BBL draft, including the Shariah Law. And I believe this is one good way to start PEACE among Muslims and non-Muslims who are ALL Filipinos. It’s the implementation though that would be worrisome but let’s take that first step towards peace. Always, that first step is the hardest.

    In New Zealand, there is no specific area for Maoris – they are all over the country but there is a Maori Law and there are laws that incorporate the Maori customs and traditions or culture.

    With the BBL, there is a geographical area designated for the Muslims and are given an autonomous rule but are still govern by the laws of the country with specific provisions as to their relationship with the BBL draft. Hence, it is NOT giving away part of our country. It is simply giving them the authority to govern their own group, collect their own taxes and budget this for their own spending, with a little help from the national government. There is a Cordillera Autonomous Region and I believe this BBL is somewhat similar to this.

    I do not know where that notion of a Nobel peace Prize that the President is angling for came from in relation to this SAF fiasco. But a war is a war is a war….there are always casualties. Let us be realistic and let’s look at what’s happening in the Middle East / Europe. One other big problem we have in our country is the “coupling of politics and the military”… It has often been said that politicians awash with money buy the loyalties of the military and instruct them to create chaos to further their political ambitions. And what has just happened may have been partly caused by this power to buy loyalties…Please, may the harsh and rude words thrown at the President stopped – Nakakasuka nang basahin. I am not an apologist or a defender of the President or his administration but let’s respect the position – if there is no respect left for the person.

    • torogi_genes says:

      There is no Cordillera Autonomous Region yet. It is currently an administrative region and looks like years may pass before autonomy in the Cordillera will be attained. Educating fellow Cordillerans about autonomy is ongoing though it is a continuous and hard task. However, the progress of this endeavor heavily lies on the senate.

      In Mindanao, on the other hand, how fast in attaining their quest for BBL now heavily lies in the recent encounter and its after effects. I wish them well as I do my highland.

      • Steve says:

        The Cordillera is not formally an autonomous region, but in practice the core provinces of the Cordillera have a lot more autonomy than most of Mindanao. That I suspect is because the Cordillera province have not seen the indigenous vote diluted by settlers, and so virtually all public officials are members of the indigenous groups. That in turn allows a great deal of functional, if not administrative, autonomy.

        Nice genes. I don’t have them, but my wife and kids do 🙂

      • sonny says:

        @ torogi & @ steve

        Out of topic, Would either of you know if the Carino clan or the Ibaloi been compensated for Baguio? Just curious.

      • chit navarro says:

        Pasensiya ka ngaruden kabsat no saan ko nga napagdasis ti “Autonomous” ken “Administrative”… Ti ammok latta ngaminen ket it was called Cordillera Autonomous Region … ngem it is still an Adminsitrative Region gayam.

    • Joe America says:

      I’ve started reading the BBL and will use it as fodder for a few blogs, with the first one starting tomorrow. It struck me that there is a gross misconception about the BBL being about religion. It is not. It is about indigenous people having a right to the land they have always occupied, and the customs that are theirs, and some semblance of atonement for the negligence and brutality imposed on them in the past that has left them destitute today. To that extent, the BBL is a remedial solution like Affirmative Action was used in America to rectify a history of racist disenfranchisement, and it is a much better solution than the way America crammed her Native Americans onto hopeless, rocky outposts of zero economic opportunity scattered across the land.

  53. cake says:

    You know what bothered me a lot is that people reading this article immediately praised it for being comprehensive and insightful, accepting that what the writer said were all based on facts, Of course he said it is just his opinion, but he based his opinion on what he called as “history”
    I am sorry i cannot believe a writer who uses a pseudonym (maybe he /she is afraid to be exposed or maybe he/she is just a kid) This person has absolutely no credentials to show for it. This article has no citations and no reputable sources. And the person is not even from Mindanao, “he just visited and was giving the issue his attention” That is why this article is not on cnn or news channels, it’s on a blog people, on a blog! It can very well be categorized as fiction or possibly a paid propaganda. I am not saying it should not be read or be published but please take it as it is.

    • karl garcia says:

      don’t worry praising does not mean you take everything as gospel truth.I was made to understand that pseudonyms counters credentialism, it is the idea that counts not who said it.if credentials are that important to you then i suggest you go to a library.

    • Joe America says:

      People retain their anonymity for various reasons. There is a tab above that explains this. What you can do, if you believe the author’s facts are wrong, is pull up the evidence that shows he is wrong. Or you can test his reasoning against your own and against what others have said and decide if it makes sense or not. Several people have cited resources you can reference to do your own research. Or you can simply say, “hey, no citation of credentials, I’m not buying it.” That is a fair choice.

      I do fear it is not the best choice, but it is open to you. Demanding that a person reveal himself in a way that may test his or his family’s security or livelihood is not open to you.

    • chit navarro says:

      before you can demand, make sure you have it.
      so, if you have the guts to tell us who you are, perhaps Taga Bundok may also have the guts to reveal him/her self.

      you can not give what you do not have
      hence, you can not ask for transparency if you are also hiding behind a name.

      CAKE? as in Binay’s birthday cakes?

    • Bert says:

      Hahahahaha, this is clearly a case of the charcoal calling the kettle black, ahaaaay.

  54. Paul Hain says:

    great article, very informative, thank you.

  55. henrietta kangleon says:

    hindi lang “it dates back to the American colonial period”, panahon pa ng mga Kastila.

  56. Prom Di says:

    First few paragraphs are obviously from Wikipedia but made them look like its a stocked knowledge… I stopped reading after that, just like I didn’t watch Sen. Tito Sotto’s speech on birth control….

    • Steve says:

      Brief summaries of the same events do tend to sound alike, but I can’t find anything here that was cut/pasted from anywhere. It’s easy to check: just copy a random sentence, paste it into Google, and see what comes up. Let us know if you find anything plagiarized.

    • I learned a lot from this article and it gave me a better understanding and a deeper insight as to the situation is. I suggest you go an read the rest. I don’t think I can read anything like it on wikipedia. (I tried).

  57. kadyo says:

    Numbed by the most recent war in Mindanao which has greatly affected my socio-economic status, l haven’t been paying attention to this incident. l read this article early this morning through an fb link posted by a friend from Cebu and realized that this is indeed is a very serious occurence that is shaking the nation more than the tragedies of 2013. To be honest, l’m not totally convinced by some points of the article as it has not expounded horizontally the implications of this tragic event to all stakeholders, active participants and passive observers alike, but it is very well written and is loaded with insights.

    l enjoy the reading the informative comments made by posters here which made me post a reply.

  58. Mr. Hiindsight says:

    Thank you for all the informative insights that i read here.. but for me it boils down to politics from the Philippine Government.

  59. undengski says:

    Thank you for this article.. objective and insightful. it fuels my desire to understand and push for peace in mindanao. Salamat.

  60. liza says:

    Very well said. Thank you for sharing this.

  61. Such a very enlightening article. Thank you for this!

  62. JR says:

    Very insightful. The recognition of inter- tribal interests and the innate suspicion that exists between different Muslim communities, and the different social, political and religious backgrounds and orientations of the key figures involved are very helpful.

    One significant historical addition is that the religious landscape in the Muslim world itself has changed dramatically. In the 1970’s and 80’s a relatively small percentage of Muslims in Mindanao were fully cognizant of their beliefs or committed religiously and ideologically to any global Islamic movement. The MNLF’s appeal in the 1970’s was rooted in an amalgam of Marxist radicalism, the personal charisma of Misuari and simmering local disenfranchisement. Today that combination carries much less appeal.

    Today the self-awareness of the Filipino Muslim community of its Islamic heritage has increased. Likewise its growing connection to global Islamic movements has created a different narrative. This contributes to a more fertile environment for greater radicalism and a more difficult challenge for those committed to negotiated peace.

    For this reason it seems that the government will do well to ignore the cries of the uninformed to renew an aggressive military response. MILF is not a unified entity that can speak for everyone. But it does represent the most hopeful avenue to keep the door open to some form of sincere and legitimate negotiations.

    • Joe America says:

      And your comment is very insightful as well, the shift from Misuari radicalism leveraging disenfranchisement to Islamic heritage and global awareness. I think (hope) some tempering trends are underway to ease the radicalism: Muslims are tired of death and threat and want jobs, ISIS is a repulsive force that makes radicalism look bad, and there is honor attached to making peace work.

      Thanks for the thoughts.

  63. Roel says:

    In my own experience peace talks never be good enough in my place. better to declare a martial law in Mindanao. but of course we need a strong political will. Which we don’t have right now to our president.

    • Joe America says:

      I’m sure all kinds of alternatives will be considered after this Mamasapano incident. I tend to think martial law will not fly for Mr. Aquino, who is a “due process” kind of guy.

  64. Jercyl says:

    Reblogged this on The Heart Locker and commented:
    A perspective that’s often lacking in many discourses. The issues are complex to say the least. And calling for an all-out war without understanding the nuances of the protracted conflicts and the root causes of the problems in Mindanao is a great disservice not just to the people who live there but the country as a whole.

  65. smalldipper says:

    War will cost lives.

  66. They know the word peace..and it is overly used. But do they know the real essence of peace? Even humanity struggles with this…

    You can’t talk peace and have a gun…

  67. jose f. esber says:

    Warriors swore-in ready to lay their life it’s simple as that! it’s part of the risk or the collateral damage in pursuit for peace in Mindanao! But to hold back an ongoing process and the temerity of the other institution going to the extent of making it a hostage for the other “Actors” to capitulate! is un-acceptable and will be dis-advantage to both sides!We will be digging more graves if the peace proceess fail! It’s a ticking time bomb!

  68. Danny Coloma Eclera says:

    The Moro separatists must be treated as terrorists or like the NPA. If and when the government and the MILF again attempt to come up with a law for Muslim Mindanao, all sectors especially the MNLF and the BIFF should be included in the process and not let the matter put into the hands of the politicians in both Houses of Congress. The enactment of the BBL seems to be the sole ambition of PBSA and the Lower House, a rubber stamp of PBSA.

    • Joe America says:

      Although I agree that units like BIFF ought to be treated as terrorists (and are today), the idea that “all sectors” be treated that way is discriminatory. The Moro population are, after all, Filipino just as people from where you live are. The goal ought to be inclusion, not discrimination. The BBL has been in process of negotiation for something like 14 years (17?) engaging international and Philippine advisers and negotiators. I don’t know how you consider Congress to be such a driver of things. The driver is peace and prosperity. Getting there is not easy because there is not trust by anybody for anybody. As your comment demonstrates.

      • “there is not trust by anybody for anybody” just watched Tarantino’s “The Hateful 8” about eight very different people, post-Civil war, trapped in Wyoming during a blizzard.

        Spoiler: it is a gruesome movie worse than any horror movie. This is my second night sleeping badly because of it. But the movie, which involves among other things an Old Southern General, the son of a Southern bushwhacker, a black Yankee former major who is proud of a letter he has from Abraham Lincoln – and of his “big black Johnson”, a Yankee bounty hunter (people still divided themselves into Yankees and Dixies back then), a captured “murderess”, a Mexican (I can hear Trump protesting what’s he doing there?) plus assorted crooks. Needless to say, nobody trusts anyone in the “Haberdashery” where they are all holed up. A bit of a commentary on how the American nation wasn’t complete yet, about hundred years after 1776. Tarantino’s graphic violence shows what people can be capable of doing to one another. Whew.

        • BTW there are Muslims now blaming Aquino for BBL not passing, saw it on Mindanews. And of course there are right-wing Manila Catholics who still see Aquino as a traitor for trying to do it.

          A bit like in the USA before: a black man trying to deal with whites was seen as a traitor by his own. A white man calling for rights for black people was called a “nigger lover” in some parts.

          I hope at least one Muslim gets into the Senate this election. This is why I suggested to regionalize the Senate. Because the Philippines is personality-oriented. Give every region a FACE in the highest body and you don’t need Federalism anymore – and they all get to know one another a bit better. Besides, it might do Sotto good to have to face a Muslim in his own hallowed halls. And people to see Muslims as part of the nation, on TV, in Senate hearings.

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  1. […] A wee bit history […]

  2. […] Mindanao . . . An Opinion This article was written by guest author Taga Bundok who lived Mindanao. He did not just “live in” Mindanao, he lived Mindanao. If you want to get a special feel for the truth of Mindanao, start here. […]

  3. […] (“Mindanao . . . an opinion”) on the BBL was by Taga Bundok, making a case for the MILF being the only game in town. This was […]



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