Limiting the fight for the Moro peoples right to self-determination

The process in which the MILF proceeded with the struggle for right to self- determination is clearly limiting for the Moro people and concocted by the government as a rather deceptive tool to undermine the Moro people’s struggle for right to self-determination.

The struggle for right to self-determination should not be confined to governance alone -the very important lesson learned with the creation of the “failed experiment” of the ARMM. The Philippine Constitution only allows the formation of a regional autonomy, hence all formulations of right to self-determination will be considered unconstitutional. The bicameral committee even removed those words in the BOL-BARMM and stressed the need for territorial integrity and sovereignty.

We must be reminded that the recognition of the people’s right to self- determination has been enshrined in the first article of the United Nations Charter and that this right is not just for a struggling minority of a certain country but for the whole people in a colonized country as well. It’s the assertion of the whole nation who fights against control by another country or corporation.

It should therefore be a wake-up call for all Filipinos that the struggle of the Moro and indigenous peoples for right to self- determination is a struggle to protect our communities and resources from plunder and colonization. At the worse extent, we must look into the possibility for President Duterte to use the BOL and the future BARMM as a tool of control and repression against the Moro people to just let their aspirations for right to self-determination be squandered within the limiting bounds of the constitution and desist them from continuing their fight.

MILF’s justification for accepting a “may not be perfect” BBL will further put in danger the genuine struggle of the Moro people for right to self-determination. Indeed, the MILF is badgered by the threat that if the BBL is not passed in their lifetime, Moro “extremists” and terrorists will take over the struggle of the Moro people. But in spite of this, Moro groups that continue the armed struggle have felt the need to continue to defend their communities from the government’s all-out war and other destructive wars that result to numerous human rights violations.

Under the current administration, the campaign of crushing terrorists/extremists has been conveniently used by President Duterte to justify his unremitting issuance of repressive measures. Sadly, as a partner of the government in the peace process, the MILF is bound to also take part in “cleansing” Bangsamoro communities of government-identified “terrorists.”

The use of airstrikes and mortar shelling has barefacedly become the norm in military operations in Moro area. The recent airstrikes against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, an MILF-breakaway group, in Liguasan Marsh (an MILF-influenced area in the boundaries of North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces) during the fasting month of Ramadan resulted to the forcible evacuation of than 20,000 families.

The people of Marawi City cannot forget how President Duterte responded to the siege of a small group in the city last year that left their communities destroyed into rubbles because of aerial bombardment and how until now they are not still allowed to go back to their communities and take part in the rehabilitation of Marawi which prioritizes a new military camp and an economic zone, infrastructures for commercial purposes and not for rebuilding residents’ houses.

The US-led “war on terror” running for already two decades now has led to several cases of human rights violations: massive arrests of innocent civilians paraded as terrorists, physical and mental torture, forcible signing of documents alleging those arrested as terrorists. With the state of lawlessness and lawless violence still prevailing in Moro areas, MNLF and MILF members themselves were among the victims as they were falsely accused as terrorists and charged with rebellion and common crimes.

In the near future, with the implementation of the Philippine Identification System Act, a law signed together with the BOL on August 6, and the amended Human Security Act (HAS), practically all Moro men and women tagged as terrorists are facing the risks of illegal arrest and detention.

Will the BOL pave way for peace for the Bangsamoro?

Until the root cause of the conflict is not resolved, peace in the Bangsamoro is a far-fetched thing. The Moro people continue to fight for their rights because these are not recognized in Philippine governance as with the rest of the marginalized people.

The Moro people remain poor because of landlessness and homelessness due to incessant military assaults and corporate encroachments on Moro communities. In the name of “national development,” the Duterte government has railroaded the rights to ancestral domain and territories of the national minorities and openly sold to foreign corporations the resources in these areas.

Most of the Moro people are tenants of the elite landed families – both fellow Moro families and Christian settlers – who own vast hectares of land. They are burdened with paying for the rent and most of the times are saddled in debts.

Just like their fellow farmers, workers and fisherfolks in Mindanao, they must work doubly hard not only to pay for the rent but also to produce the needed basic commodities of the whole nation – rice, corn, fish and other agriculture-based products that will be sold domestically and internationally to gain the revenues needed by the country.

Moro people fight to defend their resources for themselves, for the nation and for the future generation. This should be the conviction that the new Bangsamoro political entity should advance and get materialized. The Moro people should also learn from the lesson of the ARMM which was used to facilitate the wholesale selling of Moro lands in the autonomous region to private companies and foreign corporations and enriched its leaders through concessions and commissions.

There are only few resources left for the Moro people as the national government sold out mineral-rich bodies of water, vast plantation lands, and areas having oil and natural gas reserves to foreign corporations such as Exxon Mobil, Total, Del Monte and other Chinese, Malaysian and American corporations. Even the former MILF camps, which were decades-long protected to accommodate residents and refugees, were sold to multinational corporations and turned into fruit and palm plantations, displacing a number of Moro people.

Critics of the BOL should not be reduced to mere peace spoilers because they have the basis for refuting a law that is not reflective of their current situation and decades-long struggle. It is time for the Moro people to really expose the insincerity of President Duterte to resolve the Moro problem and how, like in the previous administrations, he uses it as a tool for counter-insurgency or surrender of the Moro people’s struggle for right to self-determination without resolving the current and historical injustice to the Moro people. (

READ: Exposing Duterte’s Dubious Peace Offer (Part 1)

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