The “S” Word
It is difficult to imagine peace in Mindanao with the MNLF, MILF, BILF, and even Muslim civilians finally giving up the idea of a truly autonomous region, a sub-state, or a full blown secession (the “S” word). First off, Muslim children are taught in schools by their Muslim teachers (ask Dep-Ed to explain) and you can be sure at home, too, that the land they walk on is rightfully theirs by virtue of ancestral domain and it is the Christians that are the interlopers. Secondly, over the years while growing up, a Muslim living in the Philippines will experience, personally, treatment by non-Muslims that will convince him of the second-class status he has been relegated to. Economically, he would soon realize that among the poorest areas in the Philippines are the provinces with the most number of Muslims: Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao; Sultan Kudarat; and the entire ARMM region. In addition, he would be witness to political realities that show him that non-Muslim politicians in the Executive and Legislative branches of government are deciding his fate. A recent case in point is “Imperial Manila” deciding to appoint the leaders of ARMM after it had been given autonomous status enshrined in the Constitution and now taken away as easily as taking candy from a baby. The chances of Muslims in the Philippines integrating with Christians anytime in the near future is slim, close to nil, as can be gleaned in Muslim communities outside Mindanao keeping to themselves and only interacting with the rest in commercial activities. The choice male Muslims make when they reach adulthood or sometimes, even before, is whether to join an armed group to realize “independence” or work it politically; integration seems an unlikely option. Meanwhile, the Christian Filipino population outside Mindanao hardly understands or cares for that matter, about the Muslims in the South and that includes their representatives in Congress who only mouth the “Filipino Christian-Muslim brotherhood” concept because it’s what “leaders” are supposed to say but in reality, is said with the sincerity of a fox to a rabbit. Most are just simply apathetic. Moreover, if you ask the average person of Malolos, Bulacan, or Albay or Ilocos Sur what their feelings are towards the secessionist movement in Mindanao, most will be scratching their heads. If you explain to them the situation from the MILF’s point of view, they would most probably agree for them to secede or create a sub-state. Sometimes, it’s the answer coming from the simplest explanation that has the most wisdom.
Nevertheless, there is a parallel story to the 2nd oldest conflict on earth, after the conflict between North and South Sudan, and that is the growing number of non-Mindanaons acutely if not painfully aware of the violence in that part of the country; they are the families of soldiers killed in the conflict. These are families that have probably never been to the area where their father, brother, husband or son had been killed. The number continues to grow as the rest of the country gets more weary and tired of hearing or reading or watching on TV people dying for reasons not at all clear to them as to why Filipinos are shooting at each other. Themselves Christians, they are most likely to take the side of the “Christian explanation” with the biased slant of media, making it even more difficult for them to have a view of the Muslims at equal footing with themselves and so the divide gets deeper and the “2nd class status” given the Muslims, albeit unofficial, becomes more ingrained in the psyche of both Muslims and Christians. This does not bode well for an integration of both communities. The S word could be gaining ground in both the Muslim and Christian communities.
The “S” Word