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Ronald Roy — March 15, 2015

Last week, I was in a New Manila mall’s hardware store when I heard a woman sobbing into her cell phone. I turned around, and as I took three steps towards her, she pulled down her veil for greater privacy and resumed her spasmodic discourse (translated from Muslim-accented Tagalog), “…but what can I do?? They’ve taken my third and last son, and he’s only 11!! I’ve lost one already, and I cannot bear to think I’ll lose two more!!”
As she put her cell phone back in her bag, I gently asked her if her husband did anything to protect the child from conscription, and she replied, “No, sir. He personally took our boy away…it’s our way…it will never change…too many guns, rifles, fires and deaths…these wars must stop!” She then picked up her things and left.
Well, I suppose that sums up the decades-long state of affairs for most all the Muslim communities in Mindanao in terms of disease, hunger, home displacements, schooling interruptions, etcetera. “Most all”, because there are tribes that are less educated, or more combative and violent than others. Distinctions however hardly matter because families, particularly the women and children, of the Muslim tribes Tausug, Lumad, Maranao, Badjao, among others, are all similarly ravaged by incessant wars.
Our hearts bleed for these unfortunate Muslim women and children. No thanks to their male elders and policy makers, they have not seen the wonders and joys of family life. The women and kids live in a milieu of constant fear; the men’s “livelihood” is a viable, well-funded firepower enterprise that creates that fear. Essentially warriors of the fight-to-the-death variety, they’ll give away their wives but not their sidearms. And they’re like roaches, which are hard to exterminate.
Sure, they’ll come to the table and talk peace with you, but they’ll do that as rebels, armed to the teeth despite the ceasefire. Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano is right. As long as they remain armed, there will never be peace in our largest island. But let me expound on this a little further. There will never be peace in Mindanao unless all the armed tribes and groups first voluntarily disarm themselves — which would probably be like hoping that vultures will one day lose their appetite for carcasses.
Adding to our woes is the growing influence of Islamism, extremist or otherwise, in significant parts of the world — a phenomenon from which Filipino Muslims draw strength in the form of moral and firepower support that comes in steady flows. We should not downplay the apparent resurgence of the Ottoman Empire. An awareness of this would not have led AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang to naively announce that the MILF/BIFF rebels “are now on the run, demoralized because their armaments factory has been demolished”. While this may be partly true, the info would still be unwarranted propaganda. The arms factory will be back in some discreet place in no time at all. No, we’re not winning any wars.
I believe this propaganda spiel was played out by Catapang in accordance with an Aquino-MILF script that was designed to promote the Bangsamoro Basic Law’s passage. Devious and misleading, this strategy will only serve to lull people into believing that all-out offensives will by themselves bring peace, thereby paving the way for the BBL’s enactment. Not anymore. The offensives might have worked during Pres. Erap’s time, but conditions are now different. Well, I agree they may still work, but only if the BBL effectuates the disarmament of all armed Moro or pro-Moro elements, as afore-stated.
The “perpetually-armed theory” is further buttressed by the factual background that a substantial faction once broke away from the rebellious MNLF to become the MILF, then a splinter group spun out of the MNLF to become the Abu Sayyaf, then elements quit the MILF to form the BFF, from which the Justice for Islam Movement (JIM) has just been organized, ad nauseam. What’s to stop one from thinking it’s all a ruse, or once you’ve struck peace with the MILF you’ve struck peace with all the others???
Give peace a chance? Sure, provided: one, the BBL is watered down to reasonable levels; two, it’s ratified in a national referendum sans PCOS machines; and three, all armed Moro groups are disarmed.
We accept that in some real way they, being relatives, are forces friendly to one another. We also recognize that nothing in their culture stops them from being antagonistic to one another, or from quickly uniting to confront non-Moros, especially Christians. Finally, let’s admit that unarmed non-Moro families, like yours and mine, now feel unsafe in their homes more than ever. [ Next week: Chain of Command ]

09186449517 ronald8roy@yahoo.com

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