BARMM on the world stage

What good is peace if the resultant benefits of a better life are not addressed?

September 23, 2022

In the transcript of the speech of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. before the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, 20 September released to media, he talked about substantive issues that affect the world in general.

The speech consists of a bucket list of world problems, which leaders hope the UN will address, like climate change, reform in the Security Council in the face of the Russian attack against Ukraine, security, Covid-19, etc. What caught our attention was the mention of the alleged “success” of the government’s peace initiative, which paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

In fact, President Marcos Jr. has touted the BARMM as a model from which the United Nations can learn from. He was quoted by media as saying that “My country’s experiences in building peace and forging new paths of cooperation can enrich the work of the Security Council.” He said further that success in the BARMM is the centerpiece of the government’s pacification campaign.

President Marcos Jr. further claimed that the fact the Philippines has forged peace in the region “after many decades of conflict among warring factions and clansmen demonstrates that unity is possible, even in the most trying circumstances.”

The issue about the struggle of the Filipino Muslims culminating with the grant of autonomy has been elevated from being a local and an Asian concern into a global one. It was offered as a template in the search for peace.

The prominence given to BARMM on the world stage has the effect of providing a challenge both to the government and the leadership of the BARMM. It has the effect of binding the national government to double its efforts to maintain,
sustain and safeguard the peace that the region is now enjoying. The other adjuncts to the peace pact signed by the parties, like the agreement on the decommissioning of troops and their integration to the military and police establishments, should be implemented by parties faithfully, especially the government. This includes converting the rebel camps into a progressive community with the bonanza of support from the government to facilitate the integration of the rebels into mainstream society.

On the part of the BARMM leaders, it must show that it is worthy of the prominence given to it by the President. It should rein in its recalcitrant and undisciplined members and reboot its programs and plans to accelerate attainment of progress to the region. This translates to eradicating corruption and wastage of funds, both in the bureaucracy and in the implementation of public works infrastructure and other programs.

This column wishes that the President did not open his mouth too soon. It’s really premature to tell. He mentioned about “success.” Success in what? The process is still ongoing. The parties have not yet executed an Exit Agreement that will terminate the peace process. There are still post-conflict issues that need to be addressed. The guns may be silent today, but that silence may be shattered anytime. The necessary infrastructure for peace is not yet in place. Peace today is still fragile. There are still predators lurking. The boondocks and jungles teem with dissidents who are waiting for government to lower their guards. The remnants of the Maute-ISIS Group that attacked Marawi are still evangelizing publicly their radical doctrines to establish a wilayat or province of their dream Caliphate in Morolandia. Sleeper cells of the violent extremists were spotted in some remote areas of the region. Complicating the situation are the disobedient members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a breakaway from the main MILF, who are staging sporadic armed campaigns against our uniformed forces.

The dividends of peace include progress and development of the area. This is absent in the region. What good is peace if the resultant benefits of a better life are not addressed?

In sum, highlighting the gains of government before the United Nations is beneficial to the residents of the region. It has engaged the world. Their watch could be an effective deterrent to non-compliance of the terms of the peace agreement between parties.

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