Why the War? Why NOW?
Mindanao Travel Blog› entry 2 of 6 › view all entries
Understanding the Heart of the Conflict
How I wish I were writing about travbuddy meet-ups or island getaways. I miss the fun things in traveling. But then I needed to write about the conflict. Writing is after all, healing for me. Now, what war? Bear with me if for the next statements, I'll pretend to be a historian ",)
The Mindanao conflict had existed for centuries - " even during Spanish times when the country was under Spain’s rule for 333 years. Originally, before the Spaniards came, majority of the island belongs to the indigenous peoples we call the Lumad. There were also areas which belong to the Muslim tribes and were not conquered by Spain.
The conflict escalated when during the Treaty of Paris 1898; Spain ceded to the US the territories of the Republic of the Philippines and the then independent states of the Sulu Sultanate, Maguindanao Sultanate and Pat a Pongampong ko Ranao for $20M.
The problem became bigger when these states were integrated to the Philippines without the consent of the Moro people. There began the struggle for self-determination of the Moro people in Mindanao. In the past decades, numerous peace talks and peace treaties had been done. Some produced good fruits like the creation of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which includes 4 provinces and one city (where our university is located). Others, on the other hand, did not do well.
For the past decades, thousands had been killed and wounded with the war, including civilians who died either in the crossfires or in the evacuation centers. Millions had been displaced.
But more than the visible costs of war - " ammunition and other war materials, the lives lost among combatants and civilians in the battlefields, hospitals and evacuation centers, the limbs lost and other injuries sustained, the invisible costs of war cannot be quantified. (http://www.mindanaotimes.com.ph/story.php?id=21554)
Although there exists a deeply rooted conflict in Mindanao, there have been no incidences in the recent years of war affecting most of the areas (except for few cases in the southern part like Basilan with the Abu Sayaf group).
The last conflict was in year 2000 when President Estrada declared an All-Out-War to the MILF group. This I can never forget since I was a graduating student that time and the university almost called off our graduation because of the war. Although we were not in the center of the gunfires, we can hear the bombs and the exchange of bullets between the warring groups especially that we were few kilometers away from the conflict area.
Ah, now that I remember - " we were young then and very foolish. We even thought of the whole thing as a big adventure, like being in the movies. Now, being more mature and more aware on what is happening, we now think and feel differently.
So, what triggered the current conflict?
It was the Government of the Philippines (GRP) - " Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which gives the Bangsamoro (refers to the original inhabitants of Mindanao) Juridical Entity (BJE) authority and jurisdiction over the ancestral domain and lands covered by the agreement.
The MOA-AD was done by representatives of both parties without the agreement of and consultation with majority of the people of Mindanao.
In the past weeks, there had been overwhelming public demonstrations by groups (social, political or religious in nature) who are against the MOA pressuring the government to eventually cancel its final approval. This enraged the MILF group and some of its commanders then instigated war in the areas of Cotabato, Lanao and Sarangani.
Because of this, for the past weeks, a hundred thousand families had been displaced, many had been killed and caught in the crossfires, houses and schools were burned down, others suffered horrible deaths such as the beheadings in Kolambugan.
Both parties lost friends and loved ones. Both sides caused thousands of innocent people to suffer in a war so horrible.
It's sad. The tri-people of Mindanao had learned to live with each other in the past years but the recent conflict opened deep-seated wounds and threatened to divide the island which has been known to be the country's Land of Promise because of its rich resources and culture.
Has it ended?
I wish I can say yes. But for now, the observance of the Ramadan saved all of us. It's a good thing that both parties respect Ramadan and declared ceasefire - for now.
But after a month, what's next for Mindanao?
Honestly, I don't know. For the people in the heart of this war, the 'silence' now is actually a silent torture. If only I have a time machine and I have the power to stop the clock from ticking and the days from passing, I'll gladly do it.
If the problem about the MOA won't be settled in a peaceful way, there are threats that what happened in the past weeks were just but a beginning of a much bigger war.
Now, only time will tell.