OUR DECLARATION, OUR CONVICTION, OUR OBLIGATION
DIVIDED FRONTS, DIVIDED PEOPLE
Consolidated by Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS)
Building Consensus among the Bangsamoro Leaders Towards achieving a Common Political Agenda in Pursuit of Peace in Mindanao
A Peace Building from Below: A Process within a Process
What are the dividing lines? What are thebinding factors?
This paper is dedicated to our leaders- the duty-bearers- on whose hands, we theBangsamoro masses – the right-holders- have entrusted our future. We appeal to our leadersto work together to promote the interests of the people who they swear to protect, defend and liberate.
Bismillahi Rahmanir Rahim:
“And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves.” (3:103).
“The believers are but a single brotherhood. Make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers and fear Allah so that you may receive mercy.” (49-10)
“[W]e urge the leaders of both the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to consolidate their coordination and cooperation through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) and to engage other stakeholders in order to close ranks and strengthen and consolidate their cooperation and unity and maintain their peaceful struggle for the common cause,” Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
The above verses from the Holy Qr’an and the statement of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are important references to our call for intra-dialogue among the Bangsamoro leaders for unity and solidarity.
An amir’ulmujahideen once said, “only people with the same goal and mission in life and who see things from the same lens can work together.” In respect to the revolution he further said, “only those who have strong commitment, steadfast and are willing to sacrifice will sustain the work of jihad, while those with vacillating tendencies and easily cowed will drop like falling leaves.”
Another Moro revolutionary leader commented thus, “the process of revolution teaches a revolutionary (mujahid) to live a simple life and moulds him the right attitudes, exemplifying the model of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. Thus revolution is in itself a change agent.” He continued, “revolutionaries, even if they share the same mission, may at some point in time stop continuing to work together strategically for some reasons, but nothing can stop them from engaging tactically for a common cause.”
The words from these leaders are added value that inspires us in the civil society to untiringly call for solidarity, if not unity, among the Bangsamoro leaders, especially the revolutionary leaders, as a key to pursue a unifiedsolution to the Bangsamoro question. It offers us to see possibilities of helping bring together the leaders of the Bangsamoro fronts including other important actors such as the traditional, political, religious and civil society organizations (CSOs) leaders so that they consolidate their stand in the light of the on-going peace process in Southern Philippines.
The history of splits within the Philippine revolutionaries is not uncommon. During the Philippine colonial period, splits in the Filipino revolution already existed, as in the case of the Aguinaldo group who bolted from Bonifacio’s. This is also true in the contemporary revolutions in other parts of the world: in Palestine, Sri Lanka, Sudan and others.
Sometimes a multi-split happens in a revolutionary group. It can divide itself several times, as in the case of the Communist Party of the Philippines – National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) and similarly that of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). In the early 70’s the CPP-NDF once served as a single revolutionary group fighting for national democracy and reforms in the Philippines. Now, there is a faction, the so-called rejectionist group who bolted from the main NDF-CPP. The former is also divided into several groupings.
The Monolithic MNLF bannering freedom and independence of the Bangsamoro survived as a single and united Bangsamoro liberation front in the early 70s up to the 80s. The Bangsa Moro Army (BMA), the armed wing of the MNLF sustained its armed struggle from its inception up to the time of the signing of the now infamous 1976 Tripoli Agreement. Some years later, the split in the united MNLF started to occur.
In 1980 the short-lived MNLF-Reformist group and the Bangsamoro Liberation Organization (BMLO) separated from the mainstream MNLF. Their leaders later on either joined the government or retired completely. In 1986, the now Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) also bolted from the MNLF. Later on, other groups also bolted from the MNLF. Today, the NurMisuari-led MNLF and the Muslimin-led MNLF constitute the2 largest active MNLF factions. Other group includes the Lanao-based Alonto-led MNLF faction.
It is also common knowledge that some of the leaders of the so-called Abu Sayyaf were former combatants of the MNLF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is a splinter group from the MILF.
Taking into account the given situation of splits both in the case of the NDF-CPP experience and the Moro fronts, the basic question however remains whether the split serves the cause of revolution better, or is it counter-productive? To what extend does a split in a revolutionary organization adversely affect the advancement of the cause they promote?
What factors could have caused the split and the lack of cooperation among the Bangsamoro Fronts? Is it still possible for the fronts to re-unite or at least work tactically for a common cause? Is the split a blessing or a disaster to the Bangsamoro? Will this divergence lead to the achievement of self-determination or self-destruction?
Is Solidarity a possibility?
Firstly, let it be admitted that all the Moro fronts share the same goal and mission. That is “to liberate the Bangsamoro from national oppression and the vision to establish a society where the words of Allah are supreme….” “One People, One Goal” says a streamer hanging in some strategic parts of Mindanao. They also share the same revolutionary option of “armed struggle” as an approach to achieving this mission, although all of them are now talking peace with the government except the Abu Sayyaf and the BIFF.
The Tausogs summarize the bases of the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination as a struggle in defence of “Hulah, Bangsa, Agama” (Land/Territory, People/Nation and Religion/Identity). This is also interpreted as the struggle for ancestral domain. This commonality is seen as binding rather than a dividing factor.
Secondly, the Moro fronts get their mandate and legitimacy from the Bangsamoro people. The fronts, by assuming the role of being duty-bearers, also act as vanguards, representatives and guardians of the Bangsamoro. As duty-bearers, the fronts draw their legitimacy from the right-holders – the Bangsamoro-. By this inference, the fronts are morally obliged to listen to the Bangsamoro and abide by what they feel should be the right thing to do. This position and obligation shall make the fronts even more conscious of genuinely consulting the masses of the Bangsamoro as the one who gave them the mandate that legitimizes their actions.
Thirdly, the long existence of the fronts has been made possible through the support of the people whose interests the former had sworn to defend, protect and safeguard. The Bangsamoro provides moral, human and financial support to the fronts. Simply stated, the strength of the fronts emanates from the Bangsamoro. It is the same Bangsamoro the MNLFs and the MILF, ASG and BIFF swear to serve.
From the above, we see clearly that the fronts are one in their mission, sources of legitimacy and support. It is the Bangsamoro who gave them the mandate.
Hence, they are accountable to the people. Is the basic difference among the fronts found in their strategic political options and the means of achieving them? Or, is it in their way of managing their organizations and ways of resolving contradictions within?
At this point in time, what are the inclinations and tendencies of the different fronts on a strategic political option? One group of the MNLF feels that the tripartite meeting, which is aimed at resolving the controversial 1996 Peace Accord is being overtaken by events and an alternative option in pursuing the strategic development of the Bangsamoro is through the installation of a federal structure of governance in the country or declaring the BangsamoroRepublik. This is premised in some reports that the MNLF is no longer interested in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The other MNLF wing on the other hand aims at tactically working with the government in improving delivery of services and good governance in the ARMM. The MILF, in the other equation, is pursuing the attainment of theRight to Self-Determination(RSD) of the Bangsamoro (BM) through the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which can cover a larger geographical area, more political authority, and a substantial control of resources.
Clearly enough, these respective positions of the fronts are not contradictory. They are in progression. At the best, they are reconcilable. One continues from where the other ends. So, where does the contradiction lie?
Common feeling of betrayal
The MNLF has a strong sentiment on what they consider a unilateral implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) by the government. This led the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to facilitate the Tripartite Review where the MNLF, OIC and GPH are involved. Series of meetings had already been conducted to review some provisions of the 1996 FPA.
The MILF is accusing the congress for not coming up with basic law that is according to the CAB. These common feelings of betrayal can be a wake up call and a source of solidarity for the fronts.
What is the role of personality in the split? Has ethnicity something to contribute in the split?
If the fundamental contradiction and difference among the fronts is neither in their mission and mandate nor in their political strategy or organizational culture, is it in the difference of the personality and ethnicity of their leaders that divide and prevent them from working tactically or strategically? If indeed it is, is personality and ethnicity thicker than the cause of freedom and self-determination?
Is it not that Allah says in the Holy Qur’an that:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.[Hujurat – 10]
Clearly ethnicity and tribes must not be source of division buta resource for cooperation. Sharing the same mission and resources and serving the same people is a potential reason for the fronts to collaborate and cooperate either tactically or strategically. The areas on strategy in achieving their mission, while they differ, cannot stop them from working together in synergy. This Complementation should not be looked at as an imposition but an important means of bridging gaps.
While the fronts are on their individual struggle, the government can easily defeat them both politically and militarily. Politically, the MNLF is now completely deprived and eased out from the ARMM which they once served. The ARMM is the “sweat and blood” of the BangsamoroMujahideen as the famous line goes. Without control of the ARMM, the demand for downloading what the government had not delivered yet in the 1996 FPA may not have the chance to be achieved.
The MILF on the other hand found a dead-end when the congress at the end of the18-year old peace talks and after all “consensus points” had been agreed upon, insisted that only through a constitutional compliant law can the MILF attain meaningful self-governance in some parts of Mindanao. Using that agreement the congress has virtually watered down the BTC-government agreed draft BBL. As of this writing and with 9 session-day left, the congress has either changed or deleted more than 40% of the provisions of the draft BBL.
The divide and rule tactic being employed against the fronts is becoming effective only because they allowed them to be. The strength of the enemy is always measured against the weakness of the fronts. The vulnerability of the fronts to be divided and its susceptibility to outside influence are among its weaknesses. Added to this, the government enjoys “forum shopping” on which group to support and the only criterion is “lowest bidder”. This happens because the fronts have not come out with a common political agenda.
The irony is that the fronts are talking to the government but they are not talking to each other. They don’t talk to each but at times they talk against each other. While the fronts listen to foreign advices, as in the case of the OIC-sponsored MNLF-MILF unity effort they hardly lend an ear to their own people who are incessantly calling for a working solidarity. At the expense of giving what can be best to their people, they continue to snub efforts to put their acts together by the same people who have given them their mandate and legitimacy.
The best way to keep them divided, or at least prevent them from working together, is by giving attention to one front and set aside the other. Being divided, one can be a spoiler to the other at given circumstances.
This will prevent the fronts from working against a common threat.This state of affairs should be considered as a common threat against the fronts in pursuit of a compromised peace.
So, what are the fundamental differences that prevent them from joining hands? Are these differences irreconcilable? Are not the leaders of the fronts good Muslims?
The CAB and the 1996 FPA: Basis of Unity?
The MNLF-GPH Final Peace Agreement (FPA) of 1996 is not diametrically opposed to the GPH-MILF Comprehensive Agreement on theBangsamoro (CAB) of 2014. To a larger extent they complement each other. The CAB builds on the 1996 FPA. When fused together they can form one consensus agreement. One basis of solidarity is a common political agenda for autonomy that is agreeable to all the BM leaders, especially among the fronts.
It should be noted that the political agreements are not the end by themselves. They are simply the means to pave the way for a peaceful resolution of the Bangsamoro question by providing a political and legal environment conducive to achieving desired goals.
The Role of the Sultans and other important Actors
Indeed, it is to the greater interest of the Bangsamoro that the fronts work togethertactically if not strategically towards achieving the goal for peace.
While the Fronts act as the vanguard and defenders of the interests of the Bangsamoro, the other stakeholders are also equally important pillars for peace in Mindanao, namely the traditional and CSO and political leaders. They should be part of the unity and solidarity effort.
We give due credits to the vigilance of our people led by sultans who defended our homeland from foreign intruders and colonizers. Without them, we could not have maintained our identity, our territories and homeland today. That is the most important legacy they have bestowed upon us.
Although the old sultanate system of governance may not be totally applicable in the present democratic political set-up, the sultans and datus have identified controlled territories and strong influence over their respective followers which can facilitate their work to help establish peaceful Bangsamoro. They are important pillar of the BM society whose ability and influence to make things happen can not be undermined. As valuable stakeholders, they can contribute towards establishing a peaceful Bangsamoro, if they so desire. It will only take an organized and conscious efforts, clear political agenda and determination to play such role.
As an important pillar of the Bangsamoro society and under the present political realities, the traditional leaders can be instrumental in bringing peace and development in numerous ways.
It can be said that starting the dialogue process for unity and reconciliation among the important stakeholders of the Bangsamoro is easier said than done. The emotions created by the split can still be high but divided fronts begets divided people and a divided people are always vulnerable to defeat.
If and when the fronts and the traditional leaders as well as the political leaders put their act together and face the government in a negotiating table pursuing a common agenda, it will make a difference. The government can not do “forum shopping” and snub a common demand of a united Bangsamoro.
As the peaceful process becomes imperative in the pursuit for self-governance, the only option left for the Bangsamoro is to come up a with common demand and this will only happen when they start to talk using shura as an instrument for decision-making. Without this, the struggle for freedom is nearing its dead end. And unless a new “band” of Muslims will come out to rescue the fate of the Bangsamoro, self-determination shall only remain as a state of mind.
Solidarity and unity does not become an empty rhetoric when the fronts and other important stakeholders talk and push for a common agenda. They need not merge their organizations, but they can organize a solidarity front to carry their demands. After all, they share the same vision and goal. They work for the same people in the same territories.
Building the foundation for Solidarity in Pursuit of attaining meaningful self-governance in the BM: Our Urgent Call
The Bangsa Moro Solidarity Movement (BMSM), a CSO-led initiative is a concrete expression of the solidarity and unity of the Bangsamoro in advancing the cause of self-determination through the peace process.
Through this common platform and tactical alliance, which will provide an opportunity for consensus building among the major stakeholders, the BM shall be able to put forward a unified and mutually agreed position in the peace process. This alliance neither dissolves the existing fronts, nor merges them into one.
Their respective positions vis-à-vis the on-going peace process shall be consolidated and made into one position to be submitted to the government for consideration should an acceptable basic law is not favourably considered by the present congress.
The BMSM, which will be governed by a Consultative Leaders Council(CLC) coming from chosen representatives from the various BM fronts and leaders, will define areas of cooperation, collaboration and coordination among the stakeholders of the Bangsamoro. They come to terms on how they deal with each other. They define the rules of engagement. Its urgent task is to consolidate their stance and come up with a consensually agreed position that embodies the ideals of a Bangsamoro society.
With the common mission and vision of the BM leaders, the BMSM will be able to surmount obstacles on its way, thus paving the way towards the attainment of its avowed goal.
Our Inspiration and Source of Strength
We are inspired by the ideals of brotherhood and solidarity as a basic concept in the Qur’an.
“Allah’s help will come to a united people who want to help themselves.”
Loyalty and sincere devotion to Allah, brotherhood and solidarity are important attributes of believers. The Qur’an tells that all believers are brothers; they are people sharing the same feelings, who strive for the same end, adhere to the same book and struggle to reach the same goal. Consequently, solidarity becomes a natural feature of a community made up of believers. Allah commends this attachment of believers in the following verse:
Truly, Allah loves those who fight for His cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure (As-Saff, 4)
As related in the verse above, striving in unison for the cause of Allah is at this behest:
And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and do not be divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favour to you; for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, you became brethren; and you were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes His Signs clear to you, so that you may be guided.(Al-Imran, 103)
Believers are modest people who have fellow feeling and mercy for each other. Therefore, unity and solidarity among them is naturally maintained. Allah commands believers to address each other in the best manner possible (not in a good manner, but in the best manner).
Here an important feature of Satan is revealed: Satan aims to create dissension among believers.
The essential method Satan employs to break the unity among believers is to inculcate the feeling of competition in the hearts of believers. In a state of heedlessness, a believer may well succumb to delusions of grandeur and develop an ambition to attain a particular status in society. In such a mood, it is quite possible that he may try to establish supremacy over other believers. Similarly, he may feel envy of his brother for one reason or another. Though the word “envy” may sound like a feeling that may be excused, it actually has a more serious significance: it amounts to an explicit rebellion against Allah. In the Qur’an it is mentioned thus: “Or do they envy mankind for what Allah has given them of His bounty?…” (An-Nisa, 54)
As the verse suggests, all favours are bestowed by Allah and being envious of the favours given to others is simply opposing the will of Allah. That is why believers should make a point of avoiding such an attitude. Otherwise, it would not promote conduct which would serve in attaining the will and pleasure of Allah. Besides, as the verse below indicates, it is detrimental to the unity of believers:
“And obey Allah and His Messenger; and fall into no disputes, lest you lose heart and your power depart; and be patient and persevering: For Allah is with those who patiently persevere. (Al-Anfal, 46)
Essentially, envy, rivalry and contentiousness are the three basic factors posing a serious threat to the maintenance of brotherhood and solidarity among the believers. Competitiveness, likely to be aroused by ambition, does harm the bond of brotherhood. This is indeed detrimental to the soul and leads to moral regression.
It is, therefore, senseless to waste time in hindering the efforts of other believers through competition and envy, while endless opportunities lie ahead of man to earn the good pleasure of Allah. Indeed, competition never prevails in an environment where the common goal is earning the pleasure of Allah. A believer should never forget that a community of believers is like a body in which each organ functions in close cooperation with the others for its general well-being.
In this context, believers should see the success of their brothers as if it were their own success. This is quite an important concept. There are numerous verses in the Qur’an stressing the importance of brotherhood. In one verse, a prayer made by believers is recounted:
And those who came after them say: “Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the faith, and do not leave in our hearts, any rancour (or sense of injury) against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed full of Kindness, Most Merciful.” (Al-Hashr, 10)
A dispute or controversy among the believers will impair the entire struggle. Such a happening would lessen the unity and power of believers, while strengthening the unbelievers. Indeed, unless believers remain each other’s protectors, oppression will prevail. The Qur’an makes the following observation:
“Unbelievers are each other’s protectors. Unless you do this, (protect each other), there will be tumult and oppression on the earth, and great mischief.” (Al-Anfal, 73)
There are explicit commands on brotherhood and unity among believers:
Do not be like those who are divided amongst themselves and opposed to one another after receiving clear signs: for them there will be a dreadful penalty. (Al-Imran, 105)
They ask you about the spoils of war. Say: “(Such) spoils are at the disposal of Allah and the Messenger: So fear Allah, and end your disputes. Obey Allah and His Messenger, if you are true believers.” (Al-Anfal, 1)
Believers are obliged to be merciful and compassionate towards each other. Modesty is the distinctive attribute of a believer. Arrogance and envy are not characteristic of believers, but unbelievers. Thus believers should avoid being seized by this evil side of their souls and should constantly ask the protection of Allah, repent, and make amends. The end that awaits those who do not curb the evil of the soul is described in the following verse:
“O you who believe! if any from among you turn back from the faith, Allah will soon replace them by other people whom He will love as they will love Him, who are humble with the believers, stern towards unbelievers, fighting for Allah’s cause and never afraid of the reproaches of such as find fault. That is the grace of Allah, which He will bestow on whom He pleases. Allah encompasses all, and He knows all things. (Al-Maida, 54)
Muslim Unity (Ittihad) and Islamic Solidarity
As mentioned above, Allah (SWT) says in the Noble Qur’an: “And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves.”(3:103).
“The believers are but a single brotherhood. Make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers and fear Allah so that you may receive mercy.” (49-10).
Allah (SWT) says in the Noble Qur’an:
“As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, you have no part in them in the least: their affair is with Allah. He will in the end, tell them the truth of all that they did.” (6-159)
Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “The Muslims are like a body, if one part of the body hurts, the rest of the body will also suffer.” Meaning that the Muslims, whether they are of Chinese, African or Arabian or European origin, are one Ummah and they cannot be separated from each other.
Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “Believers are brethren, their lives are equal to each other and they are as one hand against their enemy.”
Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “It is not permissible for two Muslims to be annoyed and angry for more that three days.”
Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “When Muslims are angry with each other for three days. If they do not compromise then they go away from the limits of Islam and the one who compromise first will enter Jannah (Paradise) earlier.”
The utmost important duty for every Muslim is to preserve and protect the Muslim unity and not to cause any division in the Muslim rank. O Muslims: Know that union is strength and division is weakness. A building will not be strong except by the cohesion of its bricks. A tower will not arise except on correct foundations and solid principles. So, there are not sects in ISLAM, we should always call ourselves as Muslims, follower of Islam.
WE, the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), will exert our utmost effort to make the BM, their leaders, and the fronts understand that only in solidarity and in a unity of purpose will Allah’s help be forthcoming. We consider this is our urgent task. We will celebrate that time when the leaders of the BM will come together for the sake of the BM and work together for their general welfare and for Allah’s sake.
We sincerely hope and pray that you will be inspired, like we do, to pursue the cause of unity and Solidarity for the sake of the Bangsamoro and more so as sign of strong faith to Allah.