Monday, July 21, 2008

No to Bangsamorostan! No to a Moro Taliban!

Today's post begins with one I wrote just three weeks ago (Lincoln's Message Also Applies to Mindanao) and before the recent announcement of a so-called breakthrough in peace negotiations between the government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front. After this introduction, I shall take up the issue of a partial plebiscite which is the addle-pated center-piece of the selling job Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will do in the forthcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) for her desperate claim to be leaving a "peace legacy" for Mindanao. But first Abe Lincoln at the start of the American Civil War:
ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, 1861, Abraham Lincoln addressed a Special Session of the American Congress. I think his words are as fresh and insightful today in respect of our own problems in Mindanao. His demand that secession is conscionable only "for a just cause" is equally applicable to the warlords, terrorists, and politicians of our own South, who would re-enslave the Bangsamoro People to the "sanctified inequality" of theocratic Islamic sultanates that they have nonetheless successfully disguised as a glorious past and harnessed for restoration through a movement of "national liberation":
It might seem at first thought to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called "secession" or "rebellion." The movers, however, well understand the difference. At the beginning they knew they could never raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies violation of law. They knew their people possessed as much of moral sense, as much of devotion to law and order, and as much pride in and reverence for the history and Government of their common country as any other civilized and patriotic people. They knew they could make no advancement directly in the teeth of these strong and noble sentiments. Accordingly, they commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps through all the incidents to the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself is that any State of the Union may consistently with the National Constitution, and therefore lawfully and peacefully , withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State. The little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judge of its justice, is too thin to merit any notice.
Perhaps the only difference is that their disguise is not so thin and is abetted by so-called peace advocates in our own polity, and by historians who ignore and paper over the brutality and cruelty of those ancien regimes now glorified and glamorized by pundits. So before any grand ransom for a whole nation hostaged to a false history is once more paid by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, such as a homeland for the MILF/MNLF/ASG warlords and politicians, we must insist on a free, fair and internationally supervised referendum. The Constitution may not simply be cast aside so she can have her "peace legacy" in exchange for the electoral "favors" she got in Lanao (2004) and Maguindanao (2006). The utter disaster and failure of the ARMM since 1996 only proves that those with whom the government is negotiating today also do not have the full support of the people of Mindanao and are only the latest in a series of extortionists and pretenders, acceding to whom would not lead to peace but further instability and war, mostly among themselves.

These two audio recordings are my readings from Thomas McKenna, Muslim Rulers and Rebels (Everyday Politics and Armed Separatism in Southern Philippines, Chapter 3), Anvil Publishing House, Copyright 1998, Regents of the University of California.

Islamic Rule in Cotabato (read by Dean Jorge Bocobo)

European Impositions and the Myth of Morohood (read by Dean Jorge Bocobo)
Although the establishment of a so-called Bangsamoro Juridicial Entity (BJE) is not technically a secession, the effect would be the same and I vehemently oppose it for the exact same reason that the United States Civil War was fought to preserve the Union: it would be historically unjust not only to the entire Filipino people but most especially to the Bangsamoro People themselves, who would be thrown to the wolves of political Islam, a theocracy in the southern Philippines that was even more brutal and unenlightened than the rule of the Spanish Taliban.

I argue by analogy that such an establishment of Bangsamorostan, ruled by the leaders of such groups as the MNLF, MILF and the Abu Sayyaf Group, would be the moral equivalent of secession by the Southern Confederacy in the 1860s and the continuation of the institution of slavery in the antebellum South. For it can hardly escape the notice of reasonable citizens that the political system sought by the Moro insurgent separatists is not a peaceful and prosperous democratic state within a wider Republic, but the restoration of an ancien regime based upon slavery, human trafficking, piracy and the "sacred inequality" of brutal, autocratic sultanates which historically oppressed both Muslims and lumads in Mindanao and Sulu, as well as terrorized the Visayas and Luzon for centuries. In those days, political and economic power was not based on geographic domination or even land, which was plentiful and bountiful, but on the ownership and vassalage of the human beings needed to create the surpluses of food, forest products and servitude that were the foundation of twin Sultanates along the Pulangi River as well as a succession of potentates in Sulu.

The "glorious past" of the Bangsamoro people, which is adulated and glamorized by "peace advocates" and "culturally sensitive" pundits, is in truth a brutal and unjust reality that we could not in good conscience today allow to be restored because it would threaten not only peace and security within the country and in the Southeast Asian region, but would condemn the Bangsamoro people to once more suffer under the heel of modern-day datus and sultans, imams and warlords all claiming direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad via the legendary founder of Islam in the Philippines, Sharif Kabunsuan, a fugitive of the old Moluccan sultanates overthrown by the Dutch in the 15th century.

Indeed, a foretaste of such a throwback to the inglorious past of "sacred inequality" which enslaved the vast majority of Muslims to the Sultanates of Maguindanao, Buwayan and Sulu, can already be seen in the utter failure of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to lift up the Moro people. Instead, because the peace treaty signed with the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996 did not insist upon DISARMAMENT of its standing armies and full integration into the Philippine Military, the MNLF is still involved in belligerent, even terroristic activities against the citizens of the Republic, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

Now a much larger territory is about to ceded to the likes of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which had broken away from the MNLF because of disagreements with Nur Misuari by its own "leaders" like Hashim Salamat and the various "lost commands" of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. But since neither MNLF nor the MILF actually control the situation on the ground, nor to do they command, I suspect, the loyalties and allegiance of any significant fraction of the Moro people themselves, it would not be surprising to find the MNLF, or various parties to be left out of the big new deal, to renew hostilities as soon as a "final peace treaty" with the MILF is signed! Perhaps we shall yet see the formation of the NMLF, or the "Next Moro Liberation Front" to take up the same tactic of raising an insurgent army (both uniformed and in weapons-raising formation for the Mass Media's videographers and photographers, as well as flitting in and out of Abu Sayyaf kidnap for ransom gangs) and holding the entire country hostage yet again to get their own version of a "Moro homeland."

The Imbecility of a Partial Plebiscite. I do not believe that most Filipinos consider it to be a just or equitable thing for the government to give in to the demands of the MNLF/MILF/ASG for a separate Bangsamoro homeland, which is often justified by pundits and anti-colonial ideologues as a way of redressing certain alleged historical injustices. After all, it is an accepted fact that all inhabitants came under heal of the old colonial powers, Spain and America, for over four hundred years, so why should the Moros be treated any differently under the present independent Republic and its democratic Constitution? Why should there not be a separate homelands for example for the Ilocanos, the Tagalogs, the Pampangos, the Cebuanos, the Samarnons, etc? All these northern and central Philippine ethnic groups and many, many others ("lumads") in Mindanao suffered from "glorious rule" of the slave-raiding Moro Sultanates for centuries, so why now should the alleged direct descendants of Mohammed and Sharif Kabungsuan be rewarded with a restoration of their ancient tyrannical theocracy? There is of course, very little public debate or understanding of the whole ancestral domain concept, whose political and juridical foundations I addressed in a long series of posts last year as being basically the result of a national guilt trip inspired by the anti-colonial writings of such as Renato Constantino, Jose Maria Sison, Nur Misuari and an assortment of so-called "historians" -- whose distortions and self-serving purposes obscure the true nature of the history of Islam in the Philippines.

The sheer contentiousness of the issue of a Bangsamoro homeland has forced the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to suggest that the principles of self-determination and Constitutional democracy would not be violated by the establishment of Bangsamorostan if the Filipinos, the majority of whom are NOT Bangsamoro, but living in the five provinces (Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga-Sibugay and Palawan) that would be included in the new theocratic juridical entity, would approve of the same in a plebiscite--a PARTIAL plebiscite that would not include the rest of the citizens of the Republic.

I would argue by analogy that this is just as fallacious as if the US Congress in 1861 had agreed for Southern states to secede from the Union if they held a plebiscite in those states and got "approval" to do so.

But because such an argument might not sit well with the ideological anti-Americans, let me put forward a different argument which I call the Pound of Flesh argument against Bangsamorostan, which seems to me particularly apt inasmuch as the whole proposal really has to do with the idea of repaying some kind of debt to the "oppressed" Islamic southern sultanates for having abolished their slave-raiding-and-trading empires. My argument is based on William Shakespeare's play, The Merchant of Venice (Act IV, Scene 1):
A pound of that same merchant's flesh is thine:
The court awards it, and the law doth give it.

Most rightful judge!

And you must cut this flesh from off his breast:
The law allows it, and the court awards it.

Most learned judge! A sentence! Come, prepare!

Tarry a little; there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are 'a pound of flesh:'
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;
But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
Unto the state of Venice.
How DO you cut a pound of flesh out without getting any of the blood?

How DO you cut out a Bangsamoro homeland from the body of the Philippine Republic to satisfy the demands of the insurgents and separatists, without shedding the blood of Christians, lumads and low-ranking Muslims who constitute the vast majority of any given area in Mindanao?

It is a logical and unavoidable impossibility for the simple reason that the post-colonial establishment of the Philippine Republic and the adoption of its democratic constitution, abolished theocracy by proclaiming the principle of the separation of church and state, of religious and political freedoms, of nondiscrimination on the basis of religious belief, gender, race or ethnicity.

Bangsamorostan represents the irreconcilable anti-thesis of Philippine history in the post-colonial era and would represent a grave injustice to all Filipinos. It is the giving in to the biggest kidnap for ransom crime perpetrated on the country by insurgents and separatists riding high on a national guilt trip that needs to be exposed and demolished.

Not surprisingly, the legislature of one of those provinces--North Cotabato under Gov. Manny Pinol--has already passed a resolution rejecting its inclusion in the proposed Bangsamoro homeland.

However, given the skill and expertise of the President and her political operatives to engineer miraculous elections in Mindanao (such as those of 2004 and 2007!), I have no confidence whatsoever that if the partial plebiscite idea is allowed to go forward, that the true will of the people would be reflected in it and not PGMA's desire for a peace legacy.

Next I shall revisit the whole issue of ancestral domain and the Indigenous People's Rights Act and address some interesting comments from Manuel Buencamino (who also writes the Unifors blog) about the mischievous role of Malaysia in the ongoing crisis in Mindanao.

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