August 7, 2008

BJE: Bangsamoro Jambo-Jumbo Encore

Tam bo li de say de moi ya
Hey Jambo Jumbo
Way to parti o we're goin'
O, Jambali
Tam bo li de say de moi ya
Yeah, Jambo Jumbo!
[All Night Long, Lionel Richie]

We were going to party all night long, or so we thought. Or did i really hope i was going to party? No, not really.

During my recent stop at General Santos City, I randomly picked two kababayans and asked them of their (brief) thoughts about the BJE or Bangsa Moro Juridical Entity (and the buzz that surrounds it). I got two contrasting responses which i honestly kind of expected: one expressed optimism about the BJE as a small but significant step towards real autonomy for the Muslims in Mindanao; while the other easily lambasted its basic premises and denounced the outcome of the GRP-MILF talks as a sellout. One was a Muslim whom I last met 8 years ago; the other a non-Muslim (not sure if he was Christian) who works at a Gensan-based regional government office.

It would matter very little who of the two said what. What is clear is that this recent brouhaha about the BJE, ancestral domain, etc. has again demonstrated the division among Filipinos especially Mindanaoans on questions that relate to peace in Mindanao and the Moro (Filipino Muslim) struggle for self-determination in this part of the country.

It is understandable when wounds have been inflicted deep into the marrow and spirit. These wounds do not heal, not in the next century. And as if the religious and cultural differences (of the peoples in this part of the world) are not enough, add to these the insensitivity and paranoia that are expressed to one another either brought about by sheer ignorance of history or borne out of the itch to display misplaced bravado (i.e. kinsay isog?!)

It does not help when some ambiguously ludicrous "MOA on ancestral domain" suddenly pops out of the talks between government and the armed Moros; and government letting the scoop-hungry media do the briefing for the public.

It does not help when national politicians (some have been to Mindanao only during the election campaigns) suddenly carp about national integrity being undermined as if there is integrity at all in this part of the country in its current state. The ARMM region continues to be among the country's poorest, and is where democracy gets its biggest insults during elections.

It does not help when local warlords suddenly cry foul about a development they themselves admit they do not completely understand; and irresponsibly rally people around a war-mongering cause.

It does not help when one talks peace and holds a gun. Need we remind our self-proclaimed peacemakers (again for the second twice!) about the validity of such oft-repeated dichotomy? Like now that seemingly the MOA on the BJE and Ancestral Domain is on its way into the trashcan, expect the same rampage by the warring sectors like what happened in 2001 and in many other times before that.

It's back to square one for the poor Mindanaoan.


  1. We may have the tendency to explain and discuss this recent recurrence of chaos in Mindanao on the basis of the cultural history of its peoples, giving much focus on the incipient wall that stands between two apparently irreconcilable religious beliefs. But if we only disabuse our mind of this classic cause-effect paradigm, we will realize that things now have really taken the shape and color of money, where the so-called religious and political champions of both sides are actually scrambling under the negotiating table for the protection and furtherance of their individual business interests in the region. Hence, there is only one underlying basis for all this BJE mumbo-jumbo-- GREED!

  2. Good point there. Thanks for the comment.