On March 27, the Philippine government signed a historic peace accord with the largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), granting the southern Mindanao region political autonomy in exchange for laying down their arms and ending their demand for a separate Islamic state. The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro replaces the five-province Muslim autonomous region with a larger and better-funded area called Bangsmoro ("Moro Nation.") The following article appeared in the May-June 2014 NewsNotes. See a September-October 2012 article about the peace process here.
The Moro rebels, along with other insurgent groups, have fought for political autonomy since the 1970s. More than 120,000 people have died in the conflict. The peace accord is a great accomplishment, though armed struggle continues between the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist network, and the Philippine army, which receives U.S. military support.Prof. Renato Cruz De Castro from De la Salle University in Manila has written about the effect of the global war of terror on the Philippines. After September 11, 2001, "low intensity conflicts," mostly in Africa but also in the Philippines, were redefined by U.S. policy makers as "the long wars of the 21st century." Such conflicts are protracted and against Islamic extremist totalitarian movements. Rebel groups such as the MILF were placed on the foreign terrorist organization list, leaving no space for a peace process. Conflict resolution theory teaches us that the ripest moment for negotiation is a mutually hurting stalemate. The Philippine government and the Moro rebels were compelled by great suffering to accept the framework agreement and ultimately sign the peace accord.
This peace accord demonstrates that the concept of the long wars of the 21st century is false. The ecumenical community played a significant role in calling parties to the negotiating table. The day after the accord was signed, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), co-chaired by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, a Jesuit and archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, called on the government to resume the stalled peace talks with another opposition group, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), a coalition aligned with the Communist party. "We call on both sides to go back to the negotiating table, and talk about the next steps that can be taken, to forge a path to a just and enduring peace," stated the PEPP. "We call on both panels to continue to work towards peace and to seriously consider the very root causes of why there is ongoing-armed conflict in our country." Learn more at http://www.peppphil.net/.
We can further capitalize on this historic moment of peace by contacting our members of Congress to let them know that we support removing opposition groups in the Philippines from the foreign terrorist organization list, especially the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA). This will create space for a peace process.