Duterte appeals to other Moro groups

The United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) have long been critical of the Philippines in its aggressive efforts to stop the drug menace in the country, but came out last week to hail the enactment of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and its immediate signing by President Duterte.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres congratulated the peace negotiators of the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who had labored for years, back to the previous administration of President Benigno Aquino III, the many civil society organizations that had supported their efforts, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, and the members of Congress, particularly the Bicameral Conference Committee, that came up, finally, with the BOL last week.

“The United Nations will continue to support the Philippines in the implementation of the law and help build the capacity of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority as an effective conduit for peace, democratic governance, and human rights,” the UN said.

The European Union, in a statement issued by spokesman Maja Kocijancic, said the enactment of the law is a “an opportunity for the Filipino people to embrace peace and stability after decades of strife.”

There has never been complete peace in Mindanao all these many years. There were always Moro fighters challenging government authority. It is said that the American colonizers had invented the .45 caliber pistol to stop the Moros who, it seemed, could not be stopped by the usual .38 caliber revolvers of their troops.

A major effort for peace was made when, during the Corazon Aquino administration, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of Nur Misuari assumed leadership in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), but a major faction broke off – the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – dissatisfied with the ARMM. The MILF continued the movement for greater autonomy during the Aquino administration which, however, could not get Congress to approve a Bangsamoro Organic Law. It took the Duterte administration to achieve this.

President Duterte has now turned to other Moro groups who have long been fighting national government authority in Mindanao. In a speech in Jolo, Sulu, Friday night, he turned his attention to one Moro group that has become known for kidnapping and holding foreigners for ransom. He appealed to the Abu Sayyaf and other groups to give the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region a chance to prove itself.

There are other Moro groups active in various remote parts of Mindanao, like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The Maute Group sought to establish itself in Marawi City last year with the aid of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); it was defeated after five months of fighting but its followers are still around.

Now that the Philippine government has set up the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, it is hoped that the Moro people will see it as a great opportunity for peace, development, and autonomy in Mindanao. The UN and the EU have immediately voiced their welcome and their hopes for peace following enactment of the Bangsamoro law, for they know peace in Mindanao is related to peace in the rest of the world.

The hopes and support of the nation are with President Duterte as he now moves to win over other outlaw groups in the search for peace in Mindanao.