Honoring fallen mujahideen

War breeds heroes. Some live to bask in the glory of public acclaim, while others are buried in anonymity.  The recognition of their heroism in any form is always a welcome gesture. This was what the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, or BARMM, did recently. The regional government is run by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF because of its majority membership in the regional parliament. In fact, the recognition was long overdue. But as the saying goes, better late than never.

Readers, I refer to the assistance given recently by the BARMM regional government to families of MILF mujahideen who fought and died so that the Moros of today can enjoy a modicum of peace and justice with the grant of autonomy.

In a ceremony held at the government center in Barangay Manarapan, Carmen, Cotabato, symbolically a place that saw bloody skirmishes between government forces and Moro freedom fighters, around 200 widows and family members of fallen mujahideen received P50,000 each in livelihood aid. The BARMM has also devised a long-range program for them, including “capacity building, rural infrastructure development, and livelihood opportunities, and the establishment of a cooperative to enhance their livelihood.”

It was a way of honoring the families and recognizing their contribution to the struggle for Merdeka or independence. It was not really much and will not even make a dent in their financial worries considering the inflation we are experiencing, but it was a gesture pregnant with significance. It means that the regional government has finally recognized the heroism of their men. That they did not die in vain.

As aptly expressed by BARMM Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, “Their late husbands sacrificed their lives in pursuit of our vision of a government that would offer opportunities for a free and improved life… (This) simple gesture serves to acknowledge their invaluable contribution to our achievements and to honor their memory.”

The BARMM government explained that “financial aid is a component of the Bangsamoro Integrated Rehabilitation and Development or BIRD Program. The funds were drawn from the Special Development Fund of the regional government.”

The gesture, however, raised many questions on social media. What about the families of fallen mujahideen who were members of the other secessionist movements like the Moro National Liberation Front of Chairman Nur Misuari and the MNLF-Reformist Group of Dimas Pundato? Did they not contribute their lives to the cause of independence cum autonomy for the Moros, which saw fruition with the establishment of BARMM? Are they less deserving of honor?

There should be a process for properly documenting their participation so that the appropriate recognition and assistance will be extended to them. If BARMM is true to its mandate of being a vehicle for Moros to have a better life, then it should observe an egalitarian and inclusive approach in dealing with the issue.

While the BARMM is a plum trophy “won” by the MILF — the reason the law makes them the majority in the regional parliament — they are still morally obligated not to discriminate against other fighters who also lost their lives in the campaign for liberation from the perceived shackles of injustice of the Philippine government. The MILF has no monopoly on Moro nationalism and patriotism.

While we are at it, how about the Moro student activists circa 1970s who did the fighting not in the dense jungles of Morolandia but by joining the First Quarter Storm and demonstrating on Mendiola  Street and before the American and Israeli embassies chanting “Merdeka,” which heightened the nation’s consciousness to the social and political injustice being done to the Moro people.

Recall also the Moro students who were tortured for participating in the so-called “Operation June Bride” about the planned assassination of President Marcos Sr.  The intellectuals weaponized their education for the Moro cause. The activist writers and scholars among them used their pens that were “mightier than the sword” to support the struggle. (I read somewhere that Minister Mohagher Iqbal did his activism while a university student in Metro Manila.) Are they not worthy of recognition by the BARMM?

The BARMM authorities should look into this issue objectively in a way that will tone down, if not quiet, the voices of displeasure over their naked bias towards the MILF.



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