Is Mindanao peace, a lie?

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.

The Sith Code

by Darth Bane

Founder of the Order of the Sith Lords



Members of the Philippines’ Special Forces hunting down a known fugitive in Mindanao were ambushed by members of the Moro National Liberation Front.  And the question on everyone’s mind is— should peace talks continue between the MILF and the Philippine government?

The common consensus seem to be that the Philippines should breakaway from the peace table, and hunt down the MILF.  There is without doubt that it could be done, should the nation choose to irradiate them.  And yet, time and time again press them to submission, and the government pulls back when they sue for peace.  The MILF then rearms and does the whole thing all over again.

The definition of insanity, as is often quoted— is repeating the same thing and expecting different results.  And the nation has been doing the some thing with regard to peace.  However the reason why the bandit force of MILF haven’t been dealt with years ago, the problem persists today, and there must be different, and better solutions.

For the longest time, MILF really is a bandit group. Not a rebel force, or a force suing for independence.  The reality too on the ground is that this armed force is surrounded by community.  When these people talk “camps,” the mind conjures up images of a military base with armed men training like is some Hollywood movie.  The reality is that these are villages, where families.  It is medieval in the sense that instead of swords, they use guns.  And it is in violence that they get their way.  There are many good places in Mindanao, but there are places too where one is reminded of what a frontier is, and that is the Philippine frontier.

A war in Mindanao doesn’t help advance a better life for the people in Mindanao.  The problem will simply return when these bandits sue for peace.  What the people of Mindanao will benefit from is a demilitarization of all groups in the region.  When the guns have been removed from the equation and real jobs, and real hope can be ensured only will there be real peace, and a real way out of poverty for most people in Mindanao.

The solution for Mindanao peace will never come from Manila.  Peace in Mindanao can only be achieved when all the stakeholders accept that they want peace— and not their own self-interests.  And let us make no mistake that there are self-insterests involved.  We’re talking about the frontier where the status quo of warlords makes them kings.

But what of the soldiers killed in battle?

Where is justice for soldiers who died needlessly?

The perpetrators ought to be brought to justice, but not at the expense of the greater good.

Mindanao has to realize that not only are they gripping with the economic realities in the region, but they too are pressed for time.  The ecological changes in the world will soon come to Mindanao.  It will be hotter, and dryer in Mindanao in the next decades.  And that will make it even more difficult to get people out of poverty.  To act doesn’t mean to forestall— but rather to adapt.  Prepare.  And violence on the ground will only compound the long term problem for everyone.

Peace can only be achieved when everyone wants it.  Peace can only be achieved when the stakeholders in the region let go of their guns, and realize it isn’t the government that is their enemy, it is their own anger, and self-interest.  It is high time the people, and the leaders of Mindanao stand up, and act responsibly.  Peace can only be achieved when Mindanao says they want peace and will bring those who would disrupt it to justice themselves.

And what of people clamoring for war? The Catholic Church has a theory for what constitutes, Just War.  It is a philosophy studied by experts in war.  It talks about criteria of going to war.  A war in Mindanao today, is not a Just War.  Put it another way, there has to be justice for those soldiers killed. Within the framework of our law, they can achieve that, but there has to be justice too for the entire people of Mindanao, and War will not be justice for our fallen soldiers, and a people gripped by warlords, and bandits.


Image credit: Boardman Robinson, Public Domain

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • J_ag

    Piracy, smuggling, kidnapping and other activities are integral parts of the markets in the market economy in selected parts of Mindanao that is predominantly where the State has very little presence and what little it has is totally ineffective. 

    Naturally without laws on contracts the gun becomes the great equalizer in addressing income generation and income redistribution. Even the military it appears threw all caution to the winds to pursue reward money… 

    This government has direct rule over this area today through its soon to be appointed OIC. PNOY is essentially the head of the ARMM. He will the have the power to break up the internal power relations in this area and at a minimum bring it up to the level of patronage now existing in almost all other areas in the country. 

    The history of this country is well established when the Americans bought Aguinaldo.
    PNoy will have to turn this warlords into economic based lords in the tradition of Singson and the rest the guys in Congress. From tribes to feudal lords first. 

    Send Karen, Korina and Pinky to do interviews with the leaders. Invite them to chat with Boy Abunda. Let them join the social circles in Manila and ask Mother Lily of VIVA to do their life stories in the movies. That should quiet them down for now. 

    Thew poor grunts who died for God and country did not know they were used as mercenary pawns by their officers for private gain… Markets it seems have inserted themselves into the military service. 

  • J_ag

    So now it appears that the executive department under PNoy has given funding to the MILF. So now the patronage model once again is being applied. 

    Proving once again that money is thicker than religion. 

    We have to be realistic. In this game simply buy the leadership.  It is an old time tested formula for breaking up conflicts that are really based on economic disparities. 

    Addressing the root cause will take too much time. Longer than this governments contract with the people. Throwing money over the problem will bring about a short term solution.  The state demands justice. Give us those two guys who are wanted and funds will flow again.  Narrow the incident to isolated criminal activity.

    Unleash the show of force or the capability of our military’s shock and awe with two puny planes bombing run. Makes for good headlines during the 24/7 news cycle. 

    Enough already as this story has been repeated again and again. 

  • Has the departure of the Ampatuan clan left a power vacuum that is only now being exploited by the MILF? I know what they did in Maguindanao was intolerable, but what safeguards were put in place to maintain stability within the region after they were removed from office? Could the current conflict be an unintended consequence of their removal? If so, why should we be so surprised with the outcome?

    • cocoy

      Doy, there was no power vacuum as everyone expected.  They’re still pretty much in power.  I was listening to a PCIJ documentary that down to the Barangay Captain was a relative. 

      The ARMM is a failed state.  I know the government hasn’t said it to be so, but it looks and feels like one. I believe the “safeguard” was basically to appoint OICs in the region prior to election because you really can’t ensure there is a real deal election, but as I recall the supreme court shot that down. 

    • Manuelbuencamino


      I don’t think so. I think there was a modus vivendi between the Ampatuans and the MILF. 
      I think that is true of other provinces in ARMM. For example the bodies of the slain soldiers in Basilan were recovered only after the Basilan governor or was it his vice escorted the military recovery team to the encounter area. 

      Besides, the biggest enemies of the MILF should be local elected officials, right? Then why are not they at each other’s throats?

  • J_ag

    This seemingly unending conflict with the Muslims in Mindanao is but an expression of the weak nature of the still work in progress Philippine State.

    The reality of the serious lack of resources of the State has made it possible for a bunch of guys to lord over many communities that are inherently Muslim in Mindanao. 

    Even the country under martial law could not solve the Muslim problem. At the heart of the problem lies the issue of land and property rights. Anyone who been to Mindanao will tell you that the and is lush and rich. Yet those areas are the poorest areas in the country. All attempts at reforms have fallen by the wayside since the national political system turned those areas into a voting producing machines to serve political interests.

    It was simpler to make political office in those areas a huge livelihood program with dole outs going to select groups. Naturally those left out organized themselves and were influenced by recent events in this global Islamic insurgency against the West. 

    It used to be the MNLF. Now it is the MILF. The Philippines military is strategically dependent on the U.S. for its military logistics. The U.S. has final veto power of our wishes of total war on this guys. Plus it is difficult to keep so many under arms in a loose organized force that is the MILF. 

    They can easily turn their weapons into currency and engage in money making activities as is common with long drawn out insurgencies. 

    Now you have good intentioned people in PNoys government but the hard realities of material struggle on a day to day basis in a very primitive and backward area of the country naturally will give rise to criminality on an organized scale.  Banditry and brigandage runs high. These guys are armed with RPG’s, automatic weapons and such and have very little training in the finer points of a just war. 

    The savagery of the fights attest to this. It resembles something out of the Dark Ages of warfare where human beings were sliced and diced. 

    This government cannot allow this conflict to degenerate into this type of warfare. There is a huge disparity in societal development. 

    No more talk… The State must seize this moment to prove who is in charge. Prepare for war and start the process of isolating the civilian communities from the armed groups. 

    The changes in the ARRM will take time.. The armed groups want it all and have showed they are not willing to wait. 

    In Libyas the people who will lead the government will be chosen among the groups or tribes that contributed the most in blood, dead, men and victories. They may even fight amongst themselves to settle on the  leaders. 

    Unfortunately the men of the MILF believe that change can only happen through the barrel of the gun. To change their views pain will have to be imposed… 

  • Anonymous

    In my opinion, the action-items for President-Noynoy-Administration are multi-faceted:

    (1)  “Hot pursuit” of any lawless elements.   This is not “all -out-war”, this is just implementing the law of the land and bringing peace and order to areas infested with thugs and criminals.

       And please,  talking about “MILF-territory” nonsense is nonsense.  The Pilipinas Supreme Court has already decided that  GulorrYA-Macapagal-Arroyo’s MOA-Ad is unconstitutional // Malakanyang  cannot cede Pilipinas territory to the MILF — why in heavens name is PresiNoynoy “following GMA’s steps”.

    (2) accelerated government development projects — for the communities immediately surrounding the “hot spots” where MILF-thugs call themselves lords-of-the-land and any serf inside,  then immediately into areas that MILF-“lost commands” have been pushed away from.

    (3) continue the talks with the MILF.

  • Anonymous

    To keep repeating “Peace in Mindanao”  is to overstate the carnage that the MILF brutality and stupidity effects.   The MILF does not have sway over Mindanao, why then  make them look any more important?

    Province-by-count shows that the MILF has sway over only a fraction — less than 5%,I dare say — of Mindanao.    And then, what they do (burn villages, terrorize the residents of those land-areas, kidnapping and beheadings, and every many months detonating a mortar round inside buses) MILF actions (“lost command”-kuno) doom the MILF to failure. 

    The MILF are kulang-sa-pansin. To get media and a semblance of increase in importance, they then hack/behead. And when they take prisoners??? They execute prisoners. The MILF are simply criminal in their behavior.

    Has anybody heard of the MILF opening schools or even bringing notebooks/pencils/crayons for students?  Do they build roads? Has anybody heard of the MILF helping with flood relief?   In other words, the MILF movement is already doomed to failure because their leaders are on huge ego-trips and have lost sight of “… The Greater Good”. 

    Null out, then, the MILF’s only claim to stature (in other words,  “hot pursuit” to quiet down the “lost commands”).   And further put the spotlight on the nonsense-service (nada, nothhing, zero) that MILF brings to their communities  with the Government-Republic-Pilipinas bringing more services to areas of Mindanao.   Bring the services to the peaceful communities (more teachers, clinics for these peaceful communities).   And where the MILF continues to terrorize — hot pursuuit,  while reminding the citizens of those communities being terrorized by “Lost Commands” that better services are coming once the MILF-goons and thugs are nulled out.

  • Joe America

    It isn’t a lie, it is just impossible to achieve. There can be no peace where specific groups believe they enforce God’s will by opposing anyone who contests their version of His Truth.

    That’s why it is senseless to try to find a peace by carving out a separate set of rules for different parts of the country. There is no one to negotiate it with. Muslims fight amongst themselves. They can’t commit to upholding their part of the deal.

    That said, it is important to start winning some hearts and minds in relatively secure borderline communities by injecting cash training and projects to build out of the terrible poverty in Southwest Mindanao. Then push deeper and deeper into troublesome territory. In the meantime, defend these areas whilst hunting down murders. Get a bunch of US drones onto the scene.

    • Agree with you too, Joe, except for the US drones. I read on my fig leaf the owner of those drones are the handlers of the MILF so no can do, :).

  • Manuelbuencamino

    “But what of the soldiers killed in battle?Where is justice for soldiers who died needlessly?The perpetrators ought to be brought to justice, but not at the expense of the greater good.”Giving justice to the massacred soldiers is inseparable from the greater good. We cannot even begin to think of good, let alone the greater good, if we cannot provide basic justice.

  • GabbyD

    a few weeks ago, cusp mentioned the need for a long term vision for the philippines.

    peace in muslim mindanao must be part of that. in 30 years, we must have peace in that part of the country.

  • There has so many things that has to be done big and small to attain a lasting peace in Mindanao.  

    This new government of President Noynoy is lucky it has the backing of the Filipino people. This unique situation should be taken advantaged of by the president right away and should not be wasted, else the shift of the wind that propelled his ship will blow him away to oblivion.

    Their are things doable right now that the government can implement in Mindanao, but first there has to be a strong government capable of enforcing the law of the land in every inch of land considered Philippine territory. With the Filipino people solidly behind President Noynoy, there is no reason why this government can’t enforce the law of the land in any place in Mindanao as a start to attaining lasting peace in that troubled region.  

    • Anonymous

      I agree with this sentence “…Conceding territory to any secessionist group in Mindanao will never give the president  . . . any added value to his present popularity.    Unfortunately,  PresiNoynoy seems to really be trying very hard.  One evidence — his order of “…no hot pursuit.. Stand down” to AFP and PNP despite AFP soldiers held prisoners by the MILF being executed in cold-blood.