It was hard to get past the first paragraph of Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino’s speech delivered during the recently-held ceremonial turnover of weapons and so-called “decommissioning” of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters without feeling disgust. He started out by narrating how even when he was younger, he was already aware of the atrocities committed by Christians against the Muslims in Mindanao – how “opportunists saw that those tilling the land were uneducated, which allowed them to have the lands titled under their own names.”BS Aquino’s claim is outrageous. He should not be singling out Christians as perpetrators of injustices committed in the past — imagined or real — against the Muslims in Mindanao. After all, isn’t that what moderate Muslims keep saying in their defense when extremists commit atrocities – that those who kill infidels are not really representatives of Islam? President BS Aquino should not have used words that further divided Filipinos into Christians and Muslims in his speech and, instead, focused on the fact of the bloodshed that has colored Mindanao for decades.
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Likewise, a lot of people were shocked to hear no less than the country’s head of state disrespect those who died during the conflicts in the past – the civilians and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who fought Muslim extremists in the last three decades. Yes, BS Aquino was being his usual callous self when he dismissed past efforts to achieve peace and order in Mindanao. He is blinded by his mission to get his way by bullying Congress into passing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) just to please his newfound friends in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In his speech, he was also trying to shame the people who were against the BBL, saying that those against it are against peace. Nothing can be further from the truth.
In his misguided thinking, BS Aquino failed to consider the consequences of what he said in his speech. He seems to think that it is okay to put Christians under a bad light just to make the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front look good in comparison. He even justified why they had to take up arms and “go against the system”.
“If you had been in the position of those whose lands were stolen from them back then, wouldn’t you have been discouraged when, after seeking recourse with all authorities, you were told that “Nothing can be done?” Think about it: Because of the disagreements on agrarian issues, which led to injustice, they were forced to bring matters into their own hands, and private armed groups became a growing presence.”
One can be forgiven for thinking BS Aquino was talking about Hacienda Luisita when he mentioned the words “agrarian issues”, “injustice” and “private armed groups”. He should be the last one to talk about these things lest he bring attention to the agrarian issues his family is involved in and how the Philippine Supreme Court had ordered the distribution of almost 5,000 hectares of land to some 6,000 farmer beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), the sugar plantation owned by the Cojuangco side of the family of President BS Aquino. The courts decision came “seven years after the Hacienda Luisita massacre. Seven protesting farmers died at the Hacienda Luisita on November 16, 2004 in a clash with security forces”. But I digress…
BS Aquino said those words as if previous governments did not carry out successful peace agreements in the past with the leading Muslim rebel group back then, the Moro National Liberation Front. In fact, the agreement with the MNLF under the leadership of Nur Misuari, who even became the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the Ramos years, was supposed to bring “peace” to the region. But alas, corruption and the conflicts within the ranks and other Muslim rebel groups – one of which is the MNLF breakaway group that formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – resulted in the resumption of instability and bloodshed in the region. In other words, what happened next was not the result of “Christian atrocities against Muslims” in Mindanao.
BS Aquino and his speechwriters could benefit from reading up on the recent history of Mindanao. They seem to be stuck with what happened almost 400 years ago, back when the Spanish colonizers came to town. A lot has happened since then. The President and his advisers only need to review what happened a few decades back to understand the real situation. Once they have analyzed it well enough, they will realize that the reason why progress keeps eluding Mindanao has a lot to do with the atrocities committed by Muslim rebel groups including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who have terrorized the region for decades. Their activities include but are not limited to, kidnap for ransom of locals and foreigners, bombings, and killing of government troops with the most recent incident in January 2015 that resulted in the deaths of 44 Special Action Forces in Mamasapano.
The bottom-line is, a lot of moderate Filipino Muslims do not need the Bangsamoro Basic Law to lead fruitful and fulfilling lives in the country. One just needs to go to Manila’s shopping malls to see how Muslim commerce thrives in the country. Besides, the Philippines is supposed to be a secular country. It is quite baffling, the way BS Aquino seems to favor one religious group over others and even rewards them with cash and government incentives.The ceremonial “decommissioning” of 145 guerrillas out of the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters seems to be a joke particularly when you consider that the government will be giving each rebel a Phil health card and 25,000 pesos in cash. The government is extremely generous to the rebel group compared to how they are treating the families of the SAF troopers who died in the hands of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during a legitimate police operation in Mamasapano. The families are still waiting for promised compensation and for justice to be administered on behalf of the fallen police officers.
Indeed, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s sincerity is still questionable. They should have surrendered the killers of the SAF officers and the weapons stolen from the fallen troops instead. What they surrendered “ceremoniously” comprised a measly 75 weapons. There is no way of knowing how many high-powered weapons they actually still have in their possession. They are probably laughing knowing that they could easily replace the weapons using the funds the Philippine government is going to give them if the BBL is passed. With a budget of 27 billion pesos annually, they can buy a lot of weapons more powerful than what they now have!
The good news is, most Filipinos are not fooled by BS Aquino’s latest stunts. They know that the “decommissioning” is just for show. After all, if the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is really after peace, they should not demand an outrageous amount of financial compensation from Filipino taxpayers and feel they are entitled to take ownership of something that belongs to every Filipino, Christians and Muslims.
No, the Filipino people do not owe the Moro Islamic Liberation Front money or any part of Mindanao. Congress should scrap the BBL!
In life, things are not always what they seem.