IN observance of Eid’l Fitr making the end of the holy month of Ramadan last Thursday, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao called for peace in Mindanao where most of the country’s Muslims live today.
“Our (Ramadan) fast embodies the many choices we are faced with in this world. We are taught, at every moment, to submit to the will of Allah, to side with what is kind, just, and good…,” said Hataman, whose ARMM will soon become the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. Governor Mangudadatu also urged: “Let us sustain throughout our lifetime the teachings of Islam we learn in Ramadan – ideal virtues like patience, piety, conciliatory, utmost concern for fellow mankind, and strong faith in God.”
For years, Mindanao has been driven by violence, with many of its Muslim people joining a succession of rebellious organizations seeking separation from the national government. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fought the government for years, followed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). There were also smaller groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Abu Sayyaf, and the Maute Group, in their respective enclaves.
President Duterte has gone all out for the establishment of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region to correct, he said, a historical injustice. There is great hope for peace in Mindanao because of the Bangsamoro region which President Duterte further seeks to strengthen as one of the autonomous regions planned under a federal system of government.
Mindanao, however, along with certain other parts of the country, has another movement that continues to pose a problem for the government. This is the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military arm, the New People’s Army.
President Duterte sought peace with the CPP-NPA from the start of his administration, holding talks that succeeded in drawing up preliminary agreements on Social and Economic Reforms, Political and Constitutional Reforms, and End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces. After a break in the talks last November 2017, the peace talks were scheduled to resume on June 28. But the government has cancelled the scheduled talks in Norway, with President Duterte saying he wished to hear out the general public on the talks with the CPP and NPA. Last Thursday, CPP Founding Chairman Jose Ma. Sison lashed out at the new government decision.
So we have these two developments in Mindanao – impending peace with the Muslims and what may become a new round of violence and conflict with the Communists. Last Friday, the Philippine Army also announced it is now launching an aggressive campaign to recruit at least 6,000 new officers and men to bolster government forces in Mindanao.
We continue to follow developments in Mindanao with a great deal of trepidation but also with hope that men of goodwill will find a way to settle seemingly irreconcilable differences and succeed in bringing peace to Mindanao.