Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Second Thoughts

I have long believed that the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is  part of the Philippines and should not be allowed to secede (see my post  Disaster Averted for Now).  But as time passes, I'm becoming doubtful that it's worth the ever increasing political, social, and financial costs for the country of trying to pacify and hold on to this territory.  Maybe it's time to let the ARMM go it's own way as a separate state after all. It seems that control of this locale by the MILF  (Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a faction of the original Moro National Liberation Front guerrilla movement)  is a fait accompli anyway.

First some background about my 180° shift in opinion. I recently wrote a post "The Two-State Solution: A Risk Worth Taking"   in my other Blog site "Towards a Rational America and Enlightened Judaism" regarding the Israel-Palestinian issue and why I feel that it's better for  Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to have for their own state. In my opinion Israel is paying too high a price by holding these people back and  that it's better for the two sides to deal with each other as equals.  

In this regard there is a somewhat of a parallel between the Palestinians and the Moros in that both groups claim rights to their own land and national sovereignty. And there is some legitimate justification in their demands.  Also, for decades both groups have been violently resisting and refusing  to recognize the respective central governments that rule their regions. And  significantly  in both cases there is no end in sight for these hostilities which just become a vicious cycle of death and destruction for all concerned.

There have been cries for a declaration of  all-out war against MILF for their attacks on the military in Basilan that resulted in the death of 19 soldiers  a few weeks ago.  Yet a full-out military campaign against the MILF was carried out in 2000 by then President Estrada. Ultimately, it achieved nothing. The conflict is back to square one.   

Also I had previously justified retention of the ARMM by the Philippines on the grounds (no pun intended) of the region's abundant natural resources. Yet when considering all the thousands of people on both sides who have died in this rebellion and for the thousands more who will likely be killed in future struggles, no amount of minerals is worth such a toll in human lives. Moreover, in granting independence to the ARMM, perhaps some kind of trade agreement could be negotiated that would ensure continued access by the Philippines to these materials, along with a United Nations peace-keeping force to enforce a security treaty that would protect non-Muslims living in the Region. The UN troops would also guard against  incursions by the MILF and the Philippines Government across each others borders. In addition the Government could offer resettlement into the Philippines to non-Muslims.  The expenses for this relocation would be at least partially borne by the MILF.

One might ask why I as a foreigner am sticking my nose into the complex political affairs of this country. Very simply, the violence throughout Philippines and especially in Mindanao is equally lethal to Filipinos and non-Filipinos who are here. However, I readily acknowledge that I am not a political science or international relations expert.  The dissolution between the Philippines And the ARMM that I'm proposing along with the details to carry it out probably sounds amateurish and naive.

But I contend that far reaching changes have to be made to the present state of affairs in order to bring about a permanent peace  between the two sides. Nothing else has worked so far, and to believe that the status quo can continue to abide indefinitely is just magical thinking.


Alan said...


In a perfect world, every nationality would have its own real estate in which its people could live without ethnic strife, separatist movements (e.g., Japan, etc.

Because most countries are multi-ethnic (and look at what the Muslioms are doing in Europe), the nation-state is a pretty poor way to organize humanity, but that's what we're stuck with. Your solution is based on common sense and practicality, but these are way down on the list of grounds for policymaking.

BTW, in American English slang, MILF is an acronym with quite a different meaning.

Secular Guy said...


Thanks for your perspective. The thing is that when it comes to nation-states, to paraphrase Orwell, they're all equal but some are more equal than others.

When an uncontrollable indigenous ethnic group clashes incessantly with the other people in the region and with the military sent by the distant central government resulting in a horrible casualty rate on both sides, something's gotta give, especially when there's no end in sight to the hostilities. Lincoln: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

I know the other meaning of "MILF". But I think that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was formed before that expression was coined, so they have "dibs" on that acronym. (lol)

Ken_L said...

I agree with your post and would only add that the Moros have not only been resisting incorporation in RP for decades, but forever. If we were in Europe, I have no doubt at all that Mindanao and the surrounding islands would have been granted independence in the 20th century in accordance with the Wilsonian rights of self-determination enforced by the victors in both world wars. If East Timor can legitimately claim independence for no better reason than that its people are Catholics not Muslims, the opposite argument should certainly apply to the Moros.

Secular Guy said...


Thanks for your support. I hadn't thought about the East Timor analogy. As you say, the Moro--Philippine Government war has gone on forever, and the longer the latter tries to hold on to the ARMM, the harder and bloodier the separation will be.

Anonymous said...

This conflict has persisted for over four centuries.

It is not going away any time soon.

But yeah, some sort of peace-building strategy needs to be tried.

Secular Guy said...


Thanks for your input.

As Lincoln once said, a nation divided against itself cannot stand.

The ARMM conflict is wasting government resources on a region and a people that have no allegiance to the rest of the Philippines. Those funds could and should be spent elsewhere.