ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews) — It is not only the issue of constitutionality that we have to face in our search for the solution to the Bangsamoro problem, or the government problem.
We must also confront the emotions that come with the basic issues. Maybe we should even regard these emotions as one of the basic issues.
The truth of the matter is that there seems to be a predominance of negative thoughts and feelings among Pinoy settlers, Bangsamoro and Lumad; they are not exactly kind. And they have also reached the level of official policies.
How, for instance can we explain, the strong resistance to the phrase “Muslim Mindanao” in the Constitution from among Christian settlers and Lumad when it was under deliberation in the Regional Consultative Commission (RCC) and in Congress?
Yes, they themselves took part in the overwhelming approval of this 1987 Constitution and, consequently, that phrase, too.
On the opposite end, how do we understand the overwhelmingly favorable response to it from among Muslims?
This was duly documented in the public consultations conducted by the RCC. Their views were opposed to each other.
The predominantly Christian provinces of eight out of 13 provinces listed in the Tripoli Agreement vehemently expressed their desire not to be included in the territory of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the reasons given revealed negative thoughts and feelings about Muslims rather than the objective merits of the draft organic act produced by the RCC and the actual Organic Act enacted by Congress.
The same manifestations were repeated in 1996 when the famous or infamous (depending on where one stood) Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) surfaced in the peace talks between Government and the MNLF.
Yet it turned out that most of the protesting public, including very educated ones, had not even read the document.
Substantially, the same demonstration of emotions were reportedly triggered by GRP-MILF MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain).
Voicing popular negative settler sentiments, indignant politicians filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) in the Supreme Court to prevent the signing of the agreement in Malaysia; the Supreme Court not only aborted the signing on August 5, 2008, it also ruled that the MOA-AD was unconstitutional.
Angry rallies denouncing the MOA-AD were held in Zamboanga City, Iligan City and Kidapawan City, even before the document itself was made known to the public, indicating unmistakably that the anger was not exactly because the protesters, or their leaders, knew what the MOA-AD was all about.
Which leads one to ask, was MOA-AD the problem? Or the perceived MOA-AD?
Or that the angry perceivers had something within themselves that had been merely pricked to the surface by the document. I had the privilege to be “in” many of the above events and I can attest that the feelings expressed were not necessarily objective reactions based on a thorough reading of the documents they were opposing.
At one point, I asked the owners of some voices in one audience: If the MOA-AD had come from a Bisayan or Christian group, would you have the same reaction?
The answer was a quick NO!
Psychology rooted in history
If we recall the 333 years Moro-Spanish wars from 1565 to 1898, interrupted with some quiet years along the way, this was triggered by Spanish ambitions to colonize the Moros.
The fact that they were employing thousands of Pinoy Christians in all expeditions against them (Moros), conveniently labeled Moro Pirata in Spanish documents and the Moros for their part relentlessly counter-attacked hitting Christian communities in Luzon, the Visayas in northern and Eastern Mindanao.
Then we should have no difficulty comprehending why there is bad blood between and among Pinoy Christians and Bangsamoros.
The Americans contributed heavily not only to the transmission of negative emotions, they also created their own labels.
In the 1903 census, they neatly divided the population into Christians and non-Christians, adding that Christians were civilized and the non-Christians were uncivilized. The latter were composed of the Moros and the Wild Tribes..
These labels colored the public land laws and the number of hectares that people could acquire. These are now classic examples of what is called class legislation. Or laws with unequal application.
Christian homesteaders were entitled to 16 or 24 hectares, depending on which version was under implementation, the non-Christians were limited to 10 or four hectares.
And it was through the use of these land laws, which were patently discriminatory, and within the framework of government resettlement programs that the Bangsamoros and Lumad of Mindanao were marginalized in their own ancestral territories.
Inner self in emotion
Loob (inner self) is very important in Pinoy social relations, not only among individual, but also within families and within the bigger communities.
The recent reactions to “Muslim Mindanao” in 1988-89, to SPCPD in 1996 and to MOA-AD in 2008 unmistakably displayed what was inside the minds of people and the feelings they have harbored for many years, much of it inherited from the Spanish period through several generations, cultivated through the years by Spanish and American colonizers and carried on by the various governments of the Republic of the Philippines.
If one looks closely at the social sciences or social studies being taught in Philippine schools, the Bangsamoro or the Lumad will not find ample reflections of themselves in the textbooks; the hand of government in the acts of omissions is everywhere in the classrooms.
The Commission on National Integration (CNI) of 1957, the IPRA of 1997 have been perennially under-funded. These were good laws but the implementation itself leaves much to be desired, starting from inadequate funding.
One is tempted to say, the left hand was taking what the right hand was giving.
Now, there is the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement of 1996 several provisions of which, representatives of government admit, have yet to be fully implemented, nearly 14 years after the signing.
Now we ask again, what is the government problem?
Maybe one of the good things that came out of the non-signing of the GRP-MILF MOA-AD and its declaration as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court is the realization by both private and Government institutions that something is indeed amiss.
So, now we have combined official and private efforts — community consultations (Konsult Mindanaw, among others) and Dialogue Mindanaw where people from the settlers and the Bangsamoro and the Lumad can publicly express their sentiments.
This is good, it is therapeutic; we need more of this at the LGU level.
Feelings in Emotion
Emotion, defined as thought with the element of like or dislike to it, reveals our innermost feelings about anything, but especially about problems that hit us intensely.
It varies in intensity depending on our level of feelings about something.
Thus, if something good or bad happens to someone close to us, we spontaneously feel good or bad, too. But if something good or bad happens to someone not close to us, we exhibit hardly any reaction.
Worse when something happens to those we regard with disdain, we do not even care..
Our thoughts, words and feelings for and about each other, the settlers, the Bangsamoro and the Lumad, have been shaped over many years, handed down from generation to generation.
I am of the impression that one highlight of the relationship between Moros and Pinoys from the north is mutual rejection, many times this is called prejudice, the seed had been sown and nurtured over many years.
Now, we are harvesting the whirlwind.
Prejudice is negative thoughts and feelings; prejudice is negative emotions; prejudice is negative energy.
Negative thoughts or feelings for one another remain alive for years, even if we thought we have forgotten about them.
Certain triggers send them spontaneously to the surface as in Muslim Mindanao, SPCPD and MOA-AD.
But energy can be transformed. So, there is hope.
Emotion is thought with like or dislike attached to it, as already said earlier.
Every word is a thought; it is also energy. That is why, according to Dr. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese scientist who has experimented with labels and water crystals, words impact clearly and palpably on water crystals.
For example, he said, the label “beautiful” is pasted on a glass of water and the water crystals come out beautiful; the label “ugly” is pasted on another glass with water coming from the same source and the water crystal turns out just that, ugly.
Another label was “Mother Teresa” and the water crystal appeared awesomely pleasant; its counterpart was labeled “Hitler” and the result was hideous.
Dr. Emoto concludes that if words can do this to water, imagine what these can to do humans. We are up to 60 percent water.
This, as a matter of fact, is what we humans have been doing to each other. We do not only label things, we also label people, we label one another.
What we feel inside comes out as thoughts and words.
The textbooks we use in social studies and in the social sciences reveal how we feel about ourselves and about each other.
The laws we have, the very Constitution we all vow to uphold reflect our mass consciousness.
Kung ano ang nasa loob, yon din nasa labas (what is inside appears outside).
What does the history of the Lumad Indigenous Communities and the Bangsamoro in Mindanao tell us?
How do we explain the emergence of liberation movements among the Bangsamoros like the MIM, the MNLF and the MILF?
How do we explain the ability of such a movement to remain active for more than 40 years, despite the massive manpower requirements, the gargantuan logistics needed, the terrible losses in lives and property?
How do we explain the growing Lumad movement for self-determination?
A rebellion generally reveals an acute level of accumulated hurt and very deep sense of alienation.
A broad-based recourse to armed violence is a very serious decision; it involves entire communities; lives of relatives and friends are put on the line.
Indeed thousands of lives were lost as well as untold damage to property in the war for Bangsamoro national liberation launched in the latter part of 1972. Seventy-five percent of the entire force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was deployed to quell the uprising.
A quick look into interrelated events in our history will reveal a pattern of acceptance, rejection and acceptance.
Sandugo is one way of bringing strangers, even enemies, together into a relationship of brotherhood.
It has deep roots in our various cultures, coming in various names but meaning the same thing.
Enemies who have reached a state of mutual rejection, even mutual elimination submit to a process that transforms negative energy into positive energy, mutual exclusion to mutual acceptance.
Sandugo, mixing of two bloods into one is, in our culture, the most powerful image of mutual acceptance.
Unfortunately, it has been submerged in layers of colonial values and practice.
Are we ready to shed off our colonial moorings to solve a pestering problem?
We need to look sa ating loob (inside ourselves), makiramdam sa isa’t isa (to feel each other out). Do we have it in our heart to accept, not reject, our Bangsamoro co-citizens.
Because if we do not, then the automatic response is counter rejection.
That is why there was a movement for national liberation, for counter identity, for self-determination, that is why it became necessary to resort to arms.
To be annexed in the Treaty of Paris was a form of wholesale non-recognition and rejection, having one’s communal land opened to private ownership through the resettlement program, seeing one’s land being parcelled out and titled to individual settlers and corporations is a form of rejection, being displaced and marginalized in one’s territory, being ruled by strangers in one’s home and not being able to decide anymore what to do with one’s life is rejection.
And when rebellion is launched by victims of rejection, we who belong to the “stranger” and “dominant” community feel justified in sending government troops to quell these troublesome rebels, feeling safe in the assumption that it was the rebels who started the trouble.
But did we not push them to do exactly that?
Being taught a history that is not one’s own is rejection.
Government has never officially looked inside itself to see and admit where it has not only failed but where it has actively contributed in the first place to the very creation of the Bangsamoro and Lumad problem.
Labelling is rejection. Called Moro pirata during the Spanish colonial regime, non-Christians and uncivilized during the days of American colonization, national cultural minorities in the days of the republic, now we call them rebels, secessionists, yes, we have thoughtlessly used the word “secessionists” even when they have accepted life within the republic.
We charge them with wanting to take our lands which we have legally taken from them in the first place (the government said these were public lands) even when they say they will respect vested rights.
We react to the MOA-AD as if it was a wakwak or aswang (witch) and sought the Supreme Court to issue a TRO on the signing.
We say we want to solve the Bangsamoro problem but we refuse to make changes in the Constitution that had legitimized their marginalization when it could have solved the Bangsamoro problem, improve their life and that of the whole nation, too, because we can rest assured that we have released ourselves from the colonial chains which we have inherited from history.
We need to put a stop to this vicious cycle of rejection and counter-rejection..
Our best choice for the future is mutual acceptance. We really cannot throw each other out of Mindanao and the country.
We say the problem is poverty and government neglect, so we answer with half-hearted development.
Entertaining victims of the vicious cycle of rejection with palliatives is in itself a form of rejection, gilingaw-lingaw lang (entertained) as they say in Bisaya.
At this point in time when the cycle of cause and effect has become vicious and never-ending the problem has become a chicken and egg situation, we cannot tell anymore which came first: the egg or the chicken or vice versa.
Admission especially public admission by leaders is an act of acceptance, an act of sorrow that one’s behavior and action has caused hurt on the other.
Constitutional change will redefine relationships of communities anchored on consent of the governed.
Acceptance is decolonization, is liberating, is upholding the highest principles of democracy.
It is political maturity. It is a political strength.
Are these strange words to us? No, these are an integral part of our culture, nakaugat sa ating kultura…nasa ating kalooban… sa bawat isa… sa bawat komunidad… nagkalayo ang ating mga loob… may kalinaw kapag nagkalapit ang loob (rooted in our culture…it is part of our inner selves… in each of us… in each of our communities…when the union of our inner selves are severed… there is peace when the inner selves are united).
Loob (inner self) is a vital ingredient in social relationships among us Filipinos whether in harmony or in conflict. Where there is harmony we say nagkaisang loob (union of inner selves); where there is conflict, nagkasira ang loob (severance of inner selves).
In between, a step before harmony we say nagkalapit ang loob (coming together of inner selves); prior to conflict when the element of distancing sets in, we say nagkalayo ang loob (distancing between inner selves). This goes for individuals as well as for groups.
When relationship between two people is in harmony, we say nagkaisa ang kanilang loob (there is union between their inner selves).
Sometimes we also say para silang magkapatid (they are like siblings).
They are sensitive to each other’s feelings; they feel for each other; they identify with each other’s interests; there is plenty of give and take.
We have two individuals, who accepted each other’s distinctness, accepted each other’s dignity, who were sensitive to each other’s sensibilities. We have a union of two selves.
Expand this into communities and we have a union of two identities: two families joined by intermarriage or a baptism.
Where the two families represent barangays, we have an alliance of two barangays.
Among nation-states the union is sealed with diplomatic relations, exchange of ambassadors, treaties of friendship and commerce, and so on.
Among corporations we speak of partnerships or joint ventures.
Notice that as the relation expands beyond the individual it also acquires impersonal features, like formal written contracts with clearly defined terms not necessarily attached to feelings.
In the Philippines, this formal written contract can only be a new Constitution, the ultimate response.
And final solution.
It means meron tayong lakas ng loob na tanggapin na nasaktan natin ang isa’t isa at handa tayong makipag-isa (we have the strength of the will to accept that we have hurt one another and we are ready to come to a union).
The seal of a new relationship is a sandugo, a new Constitution for a new Philippines.