Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Bridging the Divide
The framework agreement should be seen for what it is - a starting point for the hard negotiations that will have to hammer out the final peace agreement that will ultimately lead to the establishment of the new Bangsamoro political entity that it envisions. Already it has been challenged and rejected not only by other rival Muslim revolutionary movements like the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who see it as a betrayal of the Moro or Muslim cause but also by non-Muslim and mainstream groups, legal experts and prominent politicians who see the accord as violative of the spirit and intent of the 1987 Constitution and thus problematic to justify both legally and morally.
There are also more than a few, even in Mindanao, who fear that the agreement may become a catalyst for the formation of more extremist and radical, Islamic breakaway groups like Ameril Umbra Kato's Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who have branded the moderate MILF as the vilest of traitors to the struggle of the Moro peoples and who continue to advocate armed struggle with total secession as the final goal rather than just settling for enhanced local autonomy under the Philippine state.
In the end, I view the main obstacle to real and final peace in Mindanao as the absence of an atmosphere of mutual trust between Muslims and non-Muslims. Centuries of armed conflict aggravated by repeated betrayals and unfulfilled promises on both sides have created so much distrust and suspicion across the cultural and religious divide that it has become almost impossible for both parties even to just agree to come together and negotiate peacefully.
Despite all this drawbacks, the framework agreement is historically significant because it provides parameters for discussion between the two sides, fundamental points on which there is already a substantial degree of agreement. It provides an essential basis for dialogue and compromise. This is important because talking is always better than fighting and the road to peace must ultimately start with a firm decision to actively explore the possibility of reaching out to the opposing side no matter how remote or seemingly faint is the chance for success.
Again, in the end, the key here is trust. Each side must trust that the other has made the ultimate decision to seek the path of peace through talking and negotiation. That both sides are reaching out in good faith and with the purest of purposes, acknowledging and affirming the mutual realization that the option of war and violence has become so untenable, so counterproductive and has incurred so great a cost in human suffering and economic dislocation that it is exacting a price too steep and too great for the Filipino nation to bear and endure.
The sad thing about trust, however, specifically in the case of the Moro problem in Mindanao, is that it happens to be the most sought after and the rarest of commodities. But that is not all.
Trust like true respect and real friendship cannot just be arbitrarily or instantly given even with the best and sincerest intentions. It something that must be earned.