In a speech during the Philippine-Qatar Business Forum, held in Doha, Qatar on April 15, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte reiterated again his promise to address the historical injustice committed against the Bangsamoro people, and, without saying, to set up a genuine self-governing Bangsamoro political entity, something higher and better than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
According to Catholic Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, this injustice covers three areas: injustice to Moro identity, injustice to Moro political sovereignty, and injustice to Moro integral development. This squarely contrasted government’s view that the roots of the problem are poverty, ignorance, disease, and injustice in that order.
It is really good to hear this promise again and again from the president. It gives us more strength and energy to fast-track the GPH-MILF peace process and the drafting of a new Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) but compliant to the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB).
He said: “There are a lot of Muslims in my Cabinet. We are trying to work out something now. And I hope that Lord would be most gracious for us, the Most Merciful One would grant us peace. And we hope to succeed in our peace talks. We are ready to reconfigure the land. We are ready to concede what was lost from them. And the only thing that I ask from the Moro people is that we did not know that you were all victims of imperialism.”
However, he admitted that it would take some time to come with ways on how to correct this historical injustice, which we fully agree. We have no illusion about this. In fact, this is more sentimental and emotional than the political and socio-economic tracks.
This is the reason that in the CAB there is a need to undertake a normalization process which included especially transitional justice and reconciliation programs, which is about healing the past. Without this healing, resolving the Bangsamoro Question would not be complete and lasting. Chances that the ways of conflict would recur again and again.
During the same forum, President Duterte invited Qatari businessmen to invest in the Philippines. He assured them that the Philippines is big enough to accommodate any kind of vegetation. In our little way, the MILF can extend many ways of helping. And we are ready to cooperate!
Again, we lauded the President for this effort. But our only wish that this full-fledged investment should come after the resolution of the Bangsamoro Question and the main target would be Moro areas which are left behind as a result of the more than four decades of conflict in Mindanao. The Moros have to be helped but not to the extent of spoiling them. The MILF does not want to develop that dole-out mentality; we need to stand on ourselves as soon as possible. We fully subscribe to the Quranic injunction: “Allah helps those who help themselves.”