What We Failed to Understand

(Author’s Note: This article is a critique in an Op-Ed (Opinion Editorial) style of the article Ms. Frencie L. Carreon wrote. The original article is entitled, Breaking the Peace in Sulu and Zamboanga)

USTADZ HABIER MALIK | via Rappler.com

“..we need to be flexible in dealing with human lives, in dealing with humanity.”

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu and 2nd Philippine Marine Brigade, said these words after Lt. Col. Romulo Qumado II handled a situation that could have triggered yet another armed conflict in a community in Talipao Sulu.

The team of Qumado was able to negotiate with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in a non-violent way. And because of this, the peace in Talipao Sulu, specially that community where the two parties met, was kept intact.

Unfortunately, the peace in Zamboanga was a subject of a different fate.

First, it is important to understand that if we try to slice this issue open, at its core is the MNLF’s interest and that is to sign the Final Peace Agreement between them and the government (of the Philippines).

In hindsight, after years of running after Nur Misuari, then President Fidel V. Ramos along with other personalities, Misuari included, signed a peace agreement that would form a framework of talks and negotiation to determine implementing rules and regulations for the formation of a political entity. Bottomline: the entity was formed so that the Bangsamoro people will have a voice in the government; so that they will be given the chance to be noticed by the government.

However, due to some external factors that came into play after the signing of the agreement, the talks and negotiations were given a modicum of attention until such time it faded into the background.

Second, we have to understand from what stand-point is the MNLF coming from. After the government seemed to have forgotten its responsibility over the Bangsamoro people and its agreement with them, the Bangsamoro tried to act on their own; usually trying to get the attention of the government. This is where they started attacking some cities in the region (e.g. Kabatangan siege in 2001 and the Zamboanga siege in 2013).

I think what the government failed to understand is that they have to be flexible in handling with its people’s concerns. We have to concede that at some point, the MNLF or the Bangsamoro people are just like any other group of Filipinos trying to petition the government for redress of grievances (e.g. Million People March). Ustadz Habier Malik grounded his claim and the claim of the MNLF and the claim is very simple – for the government to hear their cries and for them to be noticed and be given opportunities for growth.

The MNLF deconstructed the peace of Zamboanga (and other parts of the region) but it was for a greater cause and , possibly, for a common good. – Juseph Elas


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