‘Sub-State’ Pushed as Answer to Bangsamoro Struggle

“The issue of land and territorial domain is at the heart of the Moro conflict. The Moro home is encroached upon, divided for more than a century. To recover, secure and protect their remaining space is justified. The Moro could not accept to be squatters in their own land.” – Prof. Julkipli Wadi, dean of the University of the Philippines Institute of Islamic Studies.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Formal peace talks have begun between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH). After the failure to sign a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), would a so-called “sub-state” be the solution to the Mindanao conflict?

In an interview before the scheduled peace talks in Kuala Lumpur, Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the MILF peace panel, said they would present a draft Comprehensive Compact agreement which he described as a “harmonization of the issue of sovereignty and their right to self-determination.” Iqbal said the proposal aims to define the powers of the central government vis-a-vis that of the Bangsamoro people in the form of state-sub-state relationship.

In a forum organized by the Center for People Empowerment and Governance (Cenpeg) and other peace advocates on Feb. 9, Prof. Julkipli Wadi, dean of the University of the Philippines Institute of Islamic Studies, said with the proposal for a creation of a sub-state, the MILF is trying to be creative in presenting an arrangement that would be acceptable to the Manila government.

“The setup of autonomy is complicated. There are duplications of functions,” Wadi said, referring to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Wadi said although he favors federalism because it is the most systematic arrangement with a clear structure, it “could hardly move forward” as amendments to the Constitution would be necessary. “At a time when independence is blasphemous to the Philippine government, the MILF has to resort to political euphemisms so that an arrangement could be formed,” Wadi said.


“If the government is hardly able to address the basic problems, how can it possibly solve the Mindanao conflict?” asks Prof. Julkipli Wadi, dean of the UP Institute of Islamic Studies.(Photo by RONALYN V. OLEA / bulatlat.com)

Wadi said that for four decades, the Manila governments have only been “managing, instead of resolving the Mindanao conflict.” “Who suffered are not only the people of Mindanao but the country as a whole,” he said. Wadi went on discussing the many formations coined by the Manila government purportedly to address the needs of the Bangsamoro people but all of which failed. “The political space for the Bangsamoro people is remolded almost endlessly.”

“The issue of land and territorial domain is at the heart of the Moro conflict. The Moro home is encroached upon, divided for more than a century. To recover, secure and protect their remaining space is justified. The Moro could not accept to be squatters in their own land,” Wadi said. He added that issues of self-determination, political rights and economic development are equally important for the Bangsamoro people.

“If the government is hardly able to address the basic problems, how can it possibly solve the Mindanao conflict? Allow the Moros to govern themselves according to their own laws and help the Philippines stand up again,” Wadi said.

Surprisingly, a former chairman of the Manila government peace panel, agreed with Wadi.

Silvestre Afable Jr., former chairman of then the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) peace panel, recalled what he said during one cabinet meeting: “One of the problems is that we only have one nation and it is the Bangsamoro nation.” Afable said he was serious in that comment but his colleagues then took it lightly.


Former GRP peace panel head Silvestro Afable Jr. says the Moros have the right to independence.(Photo by RONALYN V. OLEA / bulatlat.com)

Afable enumerated three issues that they intended to address. First is self-determination. Second, the restitution measures for grabbed lands, eroded cultures and lost generations in war. Third, he said, is respect for the dignity of the rebel cause.

Afable even went beyond what is believed to be acceptable for the Manila government. “I have seen their nationhood, how they love their culture, which unfortunately we do not have. Under this kind of treatment, they have the right to independence,” Afable said as he clarified he was speaking as a political observer.

Splits Not New

With regard to reports of the break away of MILF military commander Ameril Umbra Kato, Wadi said, splits are not new in the history of the Moro struggle. Wadi said the MILF itself is a product of the signing of the Tripoli Agreement by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari.

“The Philippine government might look at it as a weakness but this should make the GRP more serious with the peace process. Even if Kato is already old, he is still capable of getting a substantial number of followers. He could lead a bloody struggle,” Wadi said.

Afable agreed, “Kato is not the core of the problem of the MILF. If we don’t face this problem now, we will have to face the struggle of a new generation of the Bangsamoro people, much more dangerous, energetic and ferocious,” Afable said.

Concerns Over US presence

Meanwhile, Prof. Roland Simbulan, Cenpeg fellow, expressed concerns over the presence of United States troops in Mindanao.

Simbulan said while US troops have been deployed in Southern Philippines starting in 2002 supposedly to attack terror groups, Simbulan said, their presence could exacerbate the Moro conflict.

Wadi also raised the same apprehensions. “The coming in of the US to the Southern Philippines was during the rhetoric of the war on terror while the peace process was going on.”

Wadi said oil companies then entered the Sulu sea. “With the US now at the heart of Sulu, they would not want to get out.”
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