The Philippine government’s all-out war against the MILF Commanders Kato and Bravo is now threatening to engulf the whole Lanao. Two days ago, fighting was reported in Gadungan, Madalum in Lanao del Sur.
This is a bad sign. The MILF should not bring the fight to Moro areas. As was learned from the 1970s war, the military will just destroy whole towns and villages such as the burning of Jolo. The Philippine military (like the vast majority of Indio-Filipinos) does not distinguish between ordinary Moros and MILF Moros.
It is a good thing that the MILF is now using guerrilla warfare tactics. By dividing into smaller groups, they become more mobile and more effective. But, they should fight in areas dominated by the Indio-Filipinos like in Lanao Norte or even in Bukidnon or Butuan or Zamboanga. The MILF should be on the offensive and attack military posts in these areas. This way, the military would not dare harm the populace because they are their fellow Indios.
This way, the AFP’s propaganda technique of calling Moro villages “MILF camps” would be put to an end. While the majority of the Indio-Filipinos applauds every time the AFP announces the “fall” of MILF camps, the Moros who actually live in these villages are displaced and some become casualties of this undeclared war against the Moros.
IS THERE WAR OR NOT?
The government says that they are not waging war against the MILF. They are merely pursuing MILF rogue commanders Bravo and Kato. But the MILF says that these commanders are legitimate members of the MILF.
The no-holds barred pursuit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) includes air strikes with bombs and machine gun fire and the almost pre-requisite burning of Moro houses. According to the MILF, hundreds of Moro houses have been burnt by the Philippine military in Maguindanao, Sarangani and the two Lanaos.
And there is of course the looting done by the soldiers, as reported on TV and the newspapers.
While a portion of the AFP is busily fighting a portion of the MILF, hundreds of thousands of Moros and Filipino settlers are displaced. Many have died. According to the MILF, around 300 Filipino soldiers have already died in the month-long fighting.
CALL A SPADE A SPADE
Since the peace process is over, the government should just declare officially its war against the MILF. The MILF surely rejects the government’s DDR (Disarmament-Demobilization-Rehabilitation) precondition for peace talks. Besides, the government already declared that any peace talks should be made with the so-called stakeholders (meaning mostly Indio-Filipino settlers and “friendly” Moro-Filipino “leaders”).
Since the MILF will not lay down its arms, and the government won’t negotiate with the MILF, then there really is only one thing for the government to do – go after the MILF; i.e., all of MILF and not just its alleged rogue commanders.
On the other hand, what would a liberation army do if not wage a war? Since there are no more peace talks, could it just sit in the sidelines and pray that somehow, some time, somewhere, peace talks would be revived?
The government should stop its deviousness of killing innocent Moros and destroying Moro villages and calling them MILF camps and MILF supporters. It should call a spade a spade. If it wants to annihilate the MILF, then it should officially declare a war against the MILF. If it wants to annihilate the Moros, then it should officially declare war against the Bangsa Moro. There is no substitute for Truth. The truth will set us free.
BACK IN HISTORY
In 1637, the Lake (Ranao) area was promised to the Jesuits as soon as it was conquered. The conquest was assigned to Capt. Francisco Atienza, the alcalde-mayor of Caraga. Atienza reached the Lake in April 1639.
Sultan Qudarat of Maguindanao has been under siege by the Spaniards for some time. As he was related by blood and marriage to the Iranun / M’ranaos, he made a strategic retreat to the Ranao areas and rallied the Lake dwellers (M’ranaos and I-ranao-nun) to fight the Spaniards. The Spanish attempts to conquer Lanao in 1639 and 1640 both failed.
Sultan Qudarat delivered this speech in 1639 (translated to English):
You men of the lake, forgetting your ancient liberties,
have submitted to the Castillans.
Do you realize what subjection would reduce you to?
A toilsome slavery under the Spaniards!
Turn your eyes to what the subject nations have been reduced to.
Behold the Tagalogs and the Visayans, whose chiefs are trampled
upon by the lowliest Castillan!
Do you think you are better than them?
Do you think the Spaniards consider you of better stuff?
You, like them, will row the galleys, toil at the shipyards and ceaselessly
labor on the other public works.
Just as they do.
Would you allow anyone with a little Spanish blood to beat you up and
grasp the fruits of your labor?
Become subjects today and tomorrow you will be at the oars!
I, at least, will be pilot — the biggest favor they will allow a sultan.
Let not their sweet words deceive you;
their promises facilitate their deceits.
Little by little, they will control everything!
Reflect on how even the minor promises to the chiefs of other nations
were not honored.
And now the Spaniards have become masters of them all.
Let me aid you to resist.
All the strength of my Sultanate, I promise you, shall be in your defense.
What matters if the Castillans are at first successful?
That means only the loss of a year’s harvest.
Do you think that is too dear a price for Liberty?
Heeding Sultan Qudarat’s words, the M’ranaos/Iranuns in 1639 and 1640 successfully resisted Spanish attempts to conquer them. They lost two harvests in exchange for two hundred fifty years of peace and freedom. In 1891 and 1895, the Spaniards tried again but failed.
The people of the Lake did not lose a single battle with the Indio-Filipinos but they lost almost everything else.
In 1935, the M’ranao datus sent a petition to the US President and US Congress not to include Lanao in the grant of Philippine independence. They declared that they would rather “drown in the lake” than be included in the proposed Philippine state.
But the US did not hear their pleas. America gave Lanao to the Indios who called themselves Filipinos, the name given by the Spaniards to full-blooded Spaniards in the Philippines. (The Spanish Insulares and Peninsulares were called Filipinos while the Christianized natives were called Indios or Naturales. The mestizos were called mestizos.) These new Filipinos formed the newly-minted Republic of the Philippines.
And in mere strokes of the pen, practically all of Lanao and the rest of Moroland became public domain. Moro lands were farmed out to the Indio-Filipinos and to the government. The Moros who were not used to the concept of titling private lands just looked on. M’ranao land has always been communal – lands were owned by the “agama” or community. Suddenly, individuals titled lands.
Lanao was immediately reduced in size. A new province – Lanao del Norte was created for the Indio-Filipino settlers.
While the Philippine government built roads, bridges, schools, and major infrastructure all over the country, Lanao del Sur got measly allotments.
While the government used Agus River as the source to power electrically most of Mindanao, the poor M’ranaos has to pay a higher rate for their electricity. And many of its barangays do not even have electricity.
Lanao del Sur, like other Moro provinces, remains as one of the country’s poorest provinces.
The Philippine military occupies Lanao and other Moro provinces.
As evidenced by the Garci tapes, elections in Lanao are controlled by national government officials and the military.
Basic government services like water, garbage disposal, health care and electricity are minimal or even non-existent.
In the 21st century, many M’ranaos are still living without electricity and in 19th century conditions.
Today, the Maguindanao-led MILF has brought the fight with the Philippine military to Lanao del Norte and del Sur.
Maybe al Haj Murad or Commander Kato or Commander Bravo will be the new Qudarat who would unite the indigenous peoples of Mindanao to stand up and fight for their rights against foreign occupiers.
Perhaps it is about time for the M’ranaos and other Moros to think hard and ponder upon Sultan Qudarat’s words. Do they really have freedom? Do they have freedom from want (poverty, lack, hunger)? Do they have real freedom to choose their leaders? Do they have the necessary tools like good educational facilities and working opportunities in order to better their lives? Do they have equitable representation in Congress, the Judiciary, the Executive and all agencies of the government?
The lowliest Indio-Filipino has vastly greater opportunities than the bright Moros. A poor Indio-Filipino can have free public education up to high school and then proceed to the country’s “national” university – University of the Philippines Diliman – peopled mostly by Indio-Filipinos, especially Tagalogs.
A poor Indio-Filipino has a million times more chances of getting a good job in the country’s main metropolis, Metro Manila than a very bright Moro.
(A case in point: At the UP Film Institute, College of Mass Communication, for the position of Faculty Member to teach Film, Communication and Media Studies, they chose two Indio-Filipinos with NO Master’s degree and no experience whatsoever in the field of Communication, Media or Film Studies. They also chose a foreigner – a German Film Studies specialist. The competition: a Moro Filipino who is the first Filipino graduate of the UP CMC’s M.A. in Media Studies program, with specialization in Film Studies. He also was top of the class with a G.P.A. of 1.03 (1 being the highest and 5 as the failing grade) and garnered the College’s Best Thesis Award. Also, he was already a lecturer at the College (CMC) teaching Communication and Film Studies subjects plus was also a lecturer at another College teaching Communication and Journalism subjects. How much more blatant can discrimination be?)
Perhaps the M’ranaos and the Moros should also ponder upon these words by the American revolutionary patriot Patrick Henry:
“They tell us Sir, that we are weak — unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British (read: Indio-Filipino) guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature has placed in our power.” – Patrick Henry