Solve the problem

This may sound simplistic but if there is one thing I would like to say to our national leaders, it is this: SOLVE THE PROBLEM!

We are trying to solve a real problem and it requires real solutions. Not legal ones.

There is war in Mindanao. There exists (irrespective of whether we like it or not, irrespective whether we believe their cause is just or not) an armed group of about 12,500 armed regulars who are calling for an independent Bangsamoro homeland. They demand independence and are willing to use force to attain their end. They do not recognize our Constitution. They do not recognize our government’s jurisdiction over them. They will not lay down their arms (even if we say “please”). What is our response? Please do not tell me that our response is a petition to the Supreme Court.

Well, there are 2 possible responses. First, we can go to war. Declare all-out war like what Estrada did and try to eliminate all the members of the MILF and its symphatizers until there is no one left to carry the aspiration for a separate Bangsamoro homeland or until they are so weakened by the war that they will be willing to surrender their aspirations and live under our command.

If we do not have the appetite for war, then peaceful political settlement is the way. But the solution will be clearly political, not legal. It will require new power-sharing arrangements. It will require “new” rules. It will require re-imagining age-old concepts of “sovereignty”, “territorial integrity”, and “democracy”.

The challenge then to our leaders who are serious about the peace process is propose new political arrangements, new rules. Once that solution is found, to call on their lawyers, their constitutionalists and find ways to implement the solution. It cannot be the other way around.

To our leaders: do not focus on the challenge in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may come out with a sound and well-researched decision. It may even be hailed as a legal “opus” but if the problem of conflict and war is not solved, if it does not bring an end to the war and violence in Mindanao, what good is that? What is the value of a legal victory if war persists?

The people are asking their leaders: how do we end the war in Mindanao? They are waiting for real answers, not press releases, not Supreme Court petitions. They have been waiting for over 30 years now. Will it all be in vain?