COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
I sympathize with the Moro’s fight for self-determination not only because it is their right as a people, but more so because they have a different world view and way of life that cannot be simply assimilated into our Judeo-Christian civilization. Peace cannot be achieved with the tyranny of the majority.
The Moro themselves have their own laws based on their religion, a code of conduct they are very strict with, a form of government, history and tradition, and a rich culture embodied in their people. It is quite a shame to impose our western influenced way of life to a people who have a true identity and a defined course of life.
We may find fault in the Moro for refusing to modernize, for getting stuck with laws and codes of conduct written in ancient times. But it is in keeping with their faith that defines their being, gives them identity, and keeps them secure and intact with the passage of time. However harsh it may seem to us, their beliefs and traditions remain stable. Keeping the faith is not only a matter of principle but also a form of survival.
In our country, the Moro know who they are and know what they want and thus should be given a space to rightly live according to their aspirations. You cannot expect these people to assimilate things which they consider alien or even inferior. For a long time, when we present the Philippines to the world, we show a picture of a Moro vinta or a singkil dance—elements of their culture—for we have nothing to show any of our own. And we relegate the Moro to the margins or the hems and edges of this land?
When we were under more than three centuries of Spanish colonization, the Moro sultanates continued to exist as political entities with a system of government, not having been occupied by the Spanish colonizers. It was only during the American occupation or the beginning of the 20th century where we saw a methodical displacement of the Moro people from their ancestral lands. Like Jews driven from the Promised Land, the Moro have been scattered across the country—unassimilated and marginalized.
It is but logical that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) be expanded so that those Moro having been forced to live in Christian settlements can go back to Mindanao or their ancestral lands and live comfortably with their people. By then, they can freely practice their religion, implement their laws, pursue their kind of education, and ply their trade. They need a territory to build their own society which is a little different from ours.
The call for a Bangsamoro homeland to include the Moro and the Indigenous peoples of Mindanao is a way to peace, as it corrects a wrong outcome of US intervention in this country. It is not safe however to grant the Bangsamoro homeland the status of a state with full sovereignty, for the Moro may be unwittingly used in their fight for self-determination by outside forces.
With the yearly Balikatan exercises being carried out in Mindanao, we know that the US government wants to have a continued military presence in this part of the pacific. And a fledging Bangsamoro state might be an easier party to deal or coerce with than a chaotic and noisy Philippine republic. So instead of being answered by Allah, the Moro might only be courting with the devil.