A Bright Prospect
for Peace for the Filipino People
A Statement of the
Ecumenical Bishops Forum in Support of the Peace Efforts of the
June 20, 2016
The rise of the
President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to the highest office in the land
portends peace to our country which has been wracked by violence for
decades if not centuries now.
The Muslims arrived in Sulu
in the 9th century as a result of the massacre of the Muslim Arabs in
Canton in 877 AD (The Struggle of the Philippine Muslims: A Historical
Perspective by Dr. Darwin T. Rasul III). From thence Islam began to
take root in the islands. In 1450 the Sultanate of Sulu was
established, followed by the Sultanate of Mindanao in the 16th
With trading the Muslims
spread their religion to Mindoro, Palawan, Manila and the rest of
Luzon. Had there been no interruption, Islam could have been the
religion throughout the islands. And the Filipino Muslims could have
lived in peace.
The coming of the Spanish
conquistadores in the 16th century, however, disrupted life for the
Muslims. The Spaniards were able to conquer most of Luzon and the
Visayas with their sword and cross. They also attempted to vanquish
Muslim Mindanao, but the more organized natives fought back fiercely.
Those sent to vanquish them, like Capt. Figueroa, were instead killed
by Moro fighters, including the famous slay of Magellan by Lapulapu.
The Spaniards never conquered the Muslims and Mindanao remained to be
Meanwhile, throughout the
islands, Andres Bonifacio organized in 1896 the Katipunan (Kataastaasang
Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan in full, or KKK), a
nationwide revolutionary movement to liberate the country from the
oppressive and exploitative hands of the colonizers.
In 1898, on the verge of
defeat, the Spaniards surrendered, not to the Filipino revolutionaries
unfortunately, but to the Americans who pretended to be protectors of
the revolutionaries but actually became the new colonizers.
In the Treaty of Paris which
was signed between Spain and the US in December 1898, the Philippines
was ceded by the former to the latter at the cost of $20 million.
Mindanao, which was never colonized by Spain, was part of the
territories given to the US.
The Muslims once again
resisted colonization. The US, however, more cunning and deceptive
than Spain, managed to subjugate the Muslims not through military
force, but through the use of the divide-and-rule and the
carrot-and-stick tactics. They established a Moro province which was
supposed to take care of the needs of the Moro people, but in effect
was a way to administratively colonize the Moro people.
They offered amnesty to Moro
“rebels”, set up an education program which granted to sons and
daughters of Moro leaders free higher education which effectively
changed their values and culture to embrace America, and put up
foreign government brought by settlers from North Luzon, and started
the exploitation of Mindanao’s rich resources. Through the Torrens
land titling, the Filipino Muslims lost their land which became public
land. Their territories including their ancestral land, are controlled
by elite settlers and foreign multinational corporations ((Guiamel M.
Alim in The Bangmoro Struggle for Self-Determination, June 1995).
When the US granted
“independence” to the Philippines, Mindanao was included under the
national government despite the protests of the Muslims.
In order to regain their
land and freedom, they organized armed resistance against the
Philippine government: the Moro National Liberation Front, its
breakaway Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and lately the Bangsamoro
Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Now, six (6) centuries
later, the Bangsamoro is still struggling for their land, life and
On the other hand, the
Filipino people led by the Communist Party of the Philippines, the
National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the New People’s
Army, are waging an armed protracted people’s war. Started in ‘60’s,
the armed resistance is now on its fourth (4th) decade.
To be sure, there were
already attempts by previous governments to forge peace with Muslim
Mindanao and the CPP-NDFP-NPA, but these did not last. Governments
seemed more interested in surrender rather than lasting peace.
The ascent of a President
Duterte who had shown true friendship with the rebels from both groups
in Mindanao gives hope to the Bangsamoro and the Left that genuine
peace based on justice is possible.
The GPH Peace Panel has
already been formed and had started working. On June 14-15, they had
initial talks with the NDFP panel in Oslo, Norway on resuming the
formal peace talks.
As far as the Bangsamoro is
concerned, incoming President Duterte had a talk with representatives
of the MNFL and MILF on June 17 in his desire to achieve a lasting
peace in Mindanao.
After six centuries as far
as the Moro people are concerned, and after four decades as far as the
Left are concerned, peace, genuine peace may at last see the dawn!
The Ecumenical Bishops Forum
supports the effort of the incoming Duterte administration to forge
peace with Bangsamoro and the Left and unify the whole Filipino people
towards progress and peace.
At this point, let us be
reminded of the words of the Psalmist:
“Let me hear
what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful,
to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
Righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground’
And righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
And will make a path for his steps.”
(Psalms 85:8-13, NRSV)
Issued and signed this 20th
day of June, 2016.