Peace problem in Mindanao
Events in Mindanao indicate that the problem of peace in general has not been approached with a studied plan in mind – no ‘cognitive map’, no ‘blueprint’, no ‘frame of reference’. There continues to be a tug-of-war between the AFP/PNP and the MILF/MNLF to the extent that the future of the whole Mindanao hangs in the balance. Peace is presented to the viewing screen as being resolved by simple arithmetical solution. This means that the AFP/PNP, when it experienced heavy casualties, will just send additional contingent to Mindanao – more casualties, more troops.
Fact is, the government has commercialized its exclusive, bounden, constitutional duty to protect the State against its enemies – by ‘subcontracting’ the entire job of running after Commander Umbra Kato and Commander Bravo via a P5 million reward for each of the top leaders of the apparently dreaded MILF. If we go by the more official pronouncement from the defense or military establishment, it is as if, the MILF leaders are ordinarily categorized as criminals with their crimes spelled out as murder, robbery, arson, et cetera. If they were so, why is it so hard for the government to bring them to the bar of justice?
It is clear that Kato and Bravo are not your ordinary criminals or terrorists as our Defense Secretary and Chief of Staff want us believe. Thus, for bureaucrats to make a swelling understatement, oversimplification, or resort to this rather vicious reductionist arrogance – in the end – simply cannot provide soothing comfort to our people who become part of the collateral damage of this unstudied joint military and police action against the MILF. How many more innocent lives will be caught in the crossfire – Muslims and Christians alike? How many more lives – on both warring camps – will be expended for fighting an armed battle where not one single camp really wins?
If the Supreme Court did not as much as issue a temporary restraining order to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain forged between the GRP and the MILF in uncharacteristic secrecy that could have been paved the way for a Bangsamoro State, could events have followed a different configuration? If there had not been any sort of opposition to a so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity – under the ‘terms of reference’ set forth in the MOA – could the armed conflict – have scaled down to zero? There were to be two scenarios that never have to take place. The contemporary mood is against two apparent states in a deceivingly peaceful co-existence and it remains to be the only constitutional barrier against any attempt to a secession or dismemberment. By whatever political gameplan this attempt at an independent Mindanao must have been drawn, in the final analysis, the government failed to cut clean.
Serious observers have taken an entirely different view on the matter. There is more than meets the eyes on this sad comeuppance in Mindanao – Lanao, Cotabato, Sarangani, wherever. There is a school of thought that says the whole scenario is part of a US plan in Southeast Asia to position itself against a possible increasing regional or global role of another country in that part of the geographical grid. True enough, US is always the world policeman that is willing to pay the price to set up strategic defense posts in every part of the globe as is euphemistically called – US military presence.
On another, there is a prevailing worldview that this has been borne out of fear of the US against a JI-led pan-Islamic state spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines that is perceived to become a choke point through which oil imports from China, Hongkong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan will pass. Has if then become logical that US is taking a pre-emptive move if indeed this is part of a JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) plan especially so where it is said that this area contains some of the richest petroleum and mineral deposits in the world? If there is reason for US, as a major importer, to be threatened in the future of an oil embargo, then this kind of theory holds water.
What probably adds insult to injury is the observation that the Chinese have strategic interests in the Spratlys that would make US jealous. After all, China is US’ next strategic enemy in the higher scheme of things. Where the Philippines will favor a China than a US, a lot of things can result in the diplomatic landscape that probably bears watching. There are indications that a China-RP trade relationship is being strengthened with new contracts with the Chinese. Be that as it may, this can have certain political implications in the future. In the meantime, PGMA remains a nut hard enough to crack as one historian says.
Is there really an oil game beyond the peripheral peace problem in Mindanao? Who stands to benefit in a given constitutional order legalizing a Bangsamoro state or that a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity finally secedes itself from the sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines? There appears to be a larger picture beyond what are presented as though isolated pockets of rebellion throughout the Mindanao peninsula. There seems to be a grand scheme of things thought out by the stronger societies in the international realm.
Can RP just play pony to a Trojan Horse? What really is this war in Mindanao as it is happening now? Who amongst us are actually selling our sovereignty by a dubious independent Bangsamoro state? We hope the problem settles down soon with us better enlightened than what we just hear over radio, view from the TV, read from newspapers. The war in Mindanao is being made a convenient smokescreen for the real motives of either a China or a US over our territorial sovereignty. In the end, RP is under siege in the guise of a theatrical war game of sorts.