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PEACETALK | Bangsamoro Transition Authority: Making the Best out of a Bad Bargain

By Phillip Somozo


The Moro struggle for self-determination levels up with the formation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), serving both legislative and executive functions of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). As its name suggests the reason for its existence is transitional, that is to ensure orderliness of procedure as the local autonomy is put in place and established.

Legitimately invited, selected, appointed, and popularly received as they are, members of the BTA, to this author’s opinion, are being called to make the best out of a bad bargain. Who calls them to do so and why?

Six generations of Moro, enduring marginalization and discrimination, fighting a war against oppression, valid and undeniable, wasteful and bloody, is the BARMM’s background reality.

All the Philippine presidents since Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr., learned the hard way to recognize that the Moro is a people with legitimate right to self-determination. For all the government’s hesitation to give back what rightfully belongs to them, the Moro had paid too much for little gain that this writer wonders what best achievement means under the present BARMM context.

My curiosity turns into amazement after conversing with an MNLF fighter who apparently retained his jolly, childlike predisposition despite having been inflected with six battle scars.

“A Muslim is a man of peace. A mujahideen (Muslim freedom fighter) engages in Jihad (Holy War) as the Quran teaches, only to fight oppression and injustice without hating his enemy,” Ustadz Murshi Ibrahim, Secretary General of the Central Committee of the revolutionary Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) declares in answer to my amazement. Resilience, faith, obedience, now, valor incomparable is added to my list of many ways the Muslim spirit endured oppressive conditions.

On the other hand, the government does not run out of justifications and excuses to shortchange the Moro. Morally and legally speaking, what you possess that does not belong to you must be returned to the rightful owner. To this, the government’s attitude has been one of endless hesitation to return self-determination to the Moro in his homeland.

“That is why we preferred to negotiate peace with (AFP) generals than with (government) administrative negotiators, because the former understand (the horrors of) war and quick to respond (positively), whereas the latter did not go straight to the point but in circles.” Member of Parliament Atty. Randolph “Bong” Parcasio said.

Historically, the Moro people already have developed governance systems since pre-Hispanic times, about five hundred years before the First Philippine Republic was declared. Spain and America both failed to colonize the Moro people. Does the Republic of the Philippines have the moral ascendancy to grant autonomy to an older self-governing people that by twist of fate is included within the former’s territory? If the Philippine government has not been so beset with accusations of corruption, my answer would be yes, maybe.

Meanwhile, modernity, brought by the Americans, creeps in bringing about indispensable societal changes. BTA Deputy Speaker Ustadz Abdul Karim Misuari points out that the use of English as medium of instruction of the educational system virtually aborted (the development of) local dialects, thus, even the definition for things native to the islands is now in foreign tongue. In connivance with high technology the English language colonized collective Filipino psychology with pseudo culture aberrant to the indigenous. (It is noteworthy that Arab missionaries did not discourage indigenous practices resulting to harmonious integration of native culture with those of Islam).

Not to mention the hundred thousand killed in battles and the displacement of a million lives, Deputy Speaker Misuari’s elaboration of deculturation by the West is the crux why the Moro struggle must shift methodology, The shift is being done through the enactment of the Bangsamoro Organic Law by the Republic of the Philippines, paving the way for the formation of the BARMM and the BTA. Well-deserved victories these are but long in coming. Nonetheless, Moro freedom fighters wept in prayer in gratitude to Allah for another opportunity towards lasting peace.

This narrative is not about remembering what went wrong with the previously implemented autonomy that according to a previous administration was a “failed experiment.” The parties involved knew the details better than this author. One day, the whole truth shall shine forth dispelling the dark lies peddled as truth through the mass media. The point to remember is past mistakes must not be repeated but, rather, corrected. Ineptness is not the way of peace and prosperity. It leads to a collapse.

The Bangsamoro is fortunate for having multi-dimensional Islam as a religion. It possesses unadulterated spiritual philosophy, its scripture not doctored. Islamic fundamental principles and its integral practices are not empty rituals, but are revealed as consistent with the findings of modern sciences like astrophysics, sociology, behavioral psychology, and health and wellness. Islam is geared not just for personal salvation but also for collective liberation. The Ramadan abstinences, not only from food but mundane preoccupation as well, for example, is proven beneficial to physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Conversely, the very threat of a backslide to personal ambition and intrigues, and factionalism and greed for power and money, makes it easier to answer the question of what could be best attained under the banner of BARMM. It is incorruptibility.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews, Phillip Somozo is an organic gardener, a visual artist and writer.)



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