Charlie Chaplin thought of it first.
In his first talking picture, “the Great Dictator,” released in 1940, Chaplin presented a memorable caricature of Adolf Hitler that could help us navigate the maze in Mindanao.
The movie takes place in the little country of Tomania, which is ruled by a dictator, Adenoid Hynkel (played by Chaplin). He is friends with Napoloni, the ruler of a neighboring country called Bacteria. The hero is a poor and mousy Jewish barber (played also by Chaplin), who is just starting to know that Hynkel hates Jews.
In one of the greatest comic scenes in cinema, Hynkel sketches his world vision. He says he wants peace. He wants a piece of Poland, a piece of Czechoslovakia, and pieces of the other countries of Europe, and presumably pieces also of the rest of the world. Hynkel dances a ballet with a globe, which he bounces around, sometimes with his butt.
Chaplin’s comic insight has come to mind, because there are many serious people among us, probably well-meaning, who believe that we can secure peace in Mindanao piece by piece a la Hynkel.
Keep ARMM, just upgrade it
Former press secretary and peace negotiator Jesus Dureza has sent me an email that outlines the varied ideas of certain individuals and groups for approaching the peace challenge along this idea of “peace by the piece.”
The first idea is that there is already one piece of peace in the books – the 1996 peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which led to the creation of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The ARRM act is constitutional. So it makes no sense to just cast it aside, as President Aquino’s peace plan and BBL proposal appear to have done.
Why risk provoking the MNLF into launching another rebellion?
Why don’t we focus our energies on creating a more progressive and equitable Muslim Mindanao. And why not include all Muslim tribes, institutions like the sultanates and communities under the umbrella of autonomy?
A more expedient way forward
Jess says in his note:
“I read the similar positions of two (2) eminent persons who are proposing that in lieu of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the more expedient way forward, while the BBL is getting stuck in both Houses of Congress is to return to the law of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (R.A. 9054) which they argued has no constitutional infirmities but enhancing it with applicable provisions of the BBL.
“This was proposed by former MNLF rebel fighter-commander Jerry Salapuddin who returned to the folds of the law during martial law days and eventually became Congressman of Basilan province. Former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, by the way, told me once how he went to the ‘war zone’ while he was AFP army general to fetch Jerry from his Basilan hideout. I remember Jerry became Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives at one time.
“A similar view came from former Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals Mario Guarina III who wrote a paper about this saying that he studied and compared the ARMM law and the proposed BBL and concluded that amending the ARMM law is more conducive to national unity and can achieve equally meaningful changes in Muslim autonomy.”
These gentlemen should be heard by the Senate and House committees that are currently conducting hearings on the BBL.
United Bangsamoro, a pipe dream
Jess reported a third view that is being discussed. “Another practical view being proposed is not to dream of a united Bangsamoro, taking into account the realities that there are tribal, ethnic, historical, geographic factors at play. Thus we face disparate groups like our proverbial alphabet soup: MNLF, MILF, BIFF, ASG, etc. Maybe, we can look for other alternatives. Some proponents are asking: Why not pursue peace “piece by piece”?
“Remember, we gave it our best shot with the MNLF, well and good. But there are still unresolved implementation issues up to now. However, most of the MNLF elements have already significantly transitioned to peaceful lives. Why should we not give another shot with the MILF which has shown over the years its determination and willingness to find some peaceful settlement?
Jess Dureza concluded his note, saying that a deal with the MILF should be pursued to a peaceful conclusion, and should not be abandoned. He says: “Let me stress this again: except for Mamasapano, the peace protocols with the MILF worked. I saw this myself during my watch while negotiating with them early on. Although there are indeed no perfect peace agreements, the deal with the MILF will mean winning another ally on the ground to our side. In fact, even if there will be more breakaway groups that will fall by the wayside as mainstream MILF partners with government, it will result obviously in lesser ‘enemies’ to deal with. Then government can move on and deal with those who still want to continue fighting government. Government, although admittedly bungling at times, is allowing all this from a high moral ground and from a position of strength. Of course, we have to learn lessons from Mamasapano.
“And yes, all this for the good not only of the Bangsamoro but of the greater majority of Filipinos. And lest we forget, we have signed a deal with the MNLF. Let’s continue to nurture it. And not pretend as if there was no 1996 Final Peace Agreement that government also entered into almost 20 years ago.”
A Marshall plan for Muslim Mindanao
This leads in my view to what I consider the most statesmanlike approach to resolving conflict in the south: and that is the passage of a comprehensive law for autonomy, peace and development in Muslim Mindanao
This approach will commit government to new wide-ranging talks with all Muslim tribes and communities in Mindanao and Sulu, not just those who have taken up arms against the state.
The goal is a comprehensive law and comprehensive plan for organizing and funding a new government entity and a long-term development program that will be like a Marshall plan for Mindanao.
The original Marshall plan, as conceived by George Marshall as US Secretary of state in 1947, laid out a generous program for the rapid recovery and redevelopment of war-torn Europe, including Germany.
A similar vision, if conceived for Mindanao, implemented with determination, generously backed by public funds and international assistance, and empowered by the support of the nation and Filipino Muslims, will cut through the roadblocks and create a new day in Mindanao.
This, not appeasement, is what is worthy of a Nobel prize. And worthy of the lasting trust and support of our people.
Incidentally, George Marshall was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1953.
The news published in the Times yesterday that some leaders of the MNLF are expressing solidarity with the MILF in supporting the BBL should not be viewed with alarm, but with an open mind.
It suggests what many of us have always believed – that given a chance Filipino Muslims can unite behind an authentic program for peace and development in Mindanao and Sulu.