Several studies have been conducted in understanding the moro problem. Scholars, peace advocates, and NGOs tried different solutions in addressing this problem. Most of the view being used is the historical and political perspective. But very few anthropological lens have been applied in understanding the nature of the moro problem.
In his highly influential “Muslim Rulers and Rebels” Thomas McKenna writes about two paradoxes. First, “there is a prevailing belief that the Muslim nationalist identity formed over the three hundred years of Spanish colonial rule and then refined against the Americans.” Thus, Cesar Majul, an historian called it as the Stages of Moro wars. Thomas McKenna, an anthropologist, interprets that evidence differently, saying that Muslim separatist identity, known to be Islamic and anti-colonial, only began during the American period and was encouraged by the Americans. This was the period from the 1898(Treaty of Paris) and 1913, where the Americans came in and started to establish the so-called Moro province.
The second paradox was that, although popular theories of nationalism claim that ordinary people involved in nationalist movements are motivated against ideas of nationalism from the elite, McKenna found that the central symbol for the Muslim separatist movement, the idea of a Philippine Muslim nation (Bangsamoro), did not really resonate with the rank-and-file, ordinary people. In fact, some of the ordinary people did not even see themselves as “Moro” or fighting for a new nation. Thus, the different series of process of integration had already addressed the issue of nationhood among the Muslim people in Mindanao.
Hence, the entire Muslim population in the country is not a monolithic group or the so-called Bangsamoro people as “one organization” as referred to by the moro advocates.
If we want to understand the problem, then we must first look into the main point that the struggle for Muslim separatism in the Philippines (or any separatist struggle) through wide ranging and multi-layered analyses of domination, accommodation and resistance. In short, we need a holistic view of everything that’s going on and, like a finely woven tinalak or enol (fabric woven by Maguindanaons and Iranuns) the different strands of color and weight and type must be considered. Second, we have to see the different paradoxes of Muslim separatism through power relations between the external state and local domain, but they must be linked together.
It is not enough to switch between external domination versus indigenous response and then indigenous rule versus local resistance. Everything must be taken into consideration and people’s perspectives must come into play for good governance. So, to start making good decisions for good governance based on accurate information, what is really going on in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao? What factors must be considered?
In truth, there are many, and you will hear them from different research and investigative work of Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). But let us discuss some of them one by one:
First, as a previously colonized nation, we have an “anarchy of families.” Another anthropologist, Keifer, observed that “for every compliant Datu, there has been a defiant one.” Thus, we can hear the names of Datu Piang, Datu Salipada K. Pendatun, Datu Udtog Matalam, Datu Sinsuat Balabaran, Abdullah Dimaporo, and lately Zacaria Candao, Nur Misuari, and the Ampatuans. Though the power has been maintained and broken with different factions, having an accurate picture of where the powers are concentrated now is important to keep in mind so that we can arrive at a good solution for peace.
Second point, there are larger and constantly shifting national players and their power dynamics to consider. While there are many to consider, some are the traditional politician warlords and their clans, Bangsamoro dissident key players like the MILF/ MNLF, ground commanders, select civil society organizations and NGOs, and religious teacher-ideologues. Different groups will have different interpretations of the issues and concerns, thus we must listen to how they are seen so we can find common ground.
We must ask ourselves, what role do these players play in the whole peace process? Are they supporters, stakeholders, spoilers, or guardians, or gatekeepers?
Third, we know that there is massive graft and corruption in the ARMM. According to our President Noynoy Aquino during the postponement of the election in the region, “we have ghost teachers, with ghost students, in ghost classrooms in the provinces of ARMM”. Lately, we still need to see the COA reports of the PAMANA Projects and Stimulus Fund. Aside from the government funded project, we need to monitor and evaluate the Overseas Development Assistance (ODAs) funds.
Fourth, after the gruesome November 23 Massacre, we know how warlordism works on the ground. A culture of impunity is worsened by the massive loose firearms in the hands of criminals and lawless elements. How do we handle these problems of “rido”, violence and culture of impunity?
Lastly, the 2007 National elections where the 12 – 0 administration’s senatorial slate reminds us of the need to have real electoral reform laws and implementation of these laws. The recent 2013 elections showed how money politics have evolved. Do our people really elect their rightful leaders?
If we can answer these questions accordingly, then we can also answer the question, “Is the Moro Problem really over?” Otherwise, let us not try to re-invent the wheel. The main problem in Muslim Mindanao has something to do with governance. Unless, our leaders and our people work together for peace and security, set aside their personal interests, then we can say that the Moro problem is a thing of the past.
(For questions/feedback please email: firstname.lastname@example.org)