By Hector R. R. Villanueva
“In war, there is no second prize for the runner-up.” — Omar Bradley
The “battle” for Marawi City is nearly won but the incipient “war” in Mindanao is not over.
The alleged ISIS-inspired rebels have made a tactical retreat to regroup, heal their wounds, and engage in brigandage and kidnapping-for-ransom to recoup their losses and fight another day.
To the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the soldiers have shown courage, determination and worthiness, and patriotism that have exceeded expectations.
However, there is the bigger picture of Muslim nationalism in the current stand-down and low-profile Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which is better armed with sizeable fully armed troops, and Nur Misuari’s trying hard-to-be-relevant Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and other splinter groups.
In the Arab world and non-Arab Muslim world, likewise in the Philippines, where there are many clans and tribes, there is no one monolithic religious sect or culture with hundreds of different tribes, though the Sunnis and the Shiites perhaps predominates.
As Prof. Avi Shlaim of Oxford University had commented, the Middle East “frequently appears not simply unstable but irrational and unaccountably hostile, seething with political extremism and religious fanaticism,” such as the Islamic State or ISIS or ISIL.
In the aftermath of the Maute siege of Marawi City, it can be surmised that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will have to address and resolve towards a lasting peace the issue of Bangsamoro nationalism, secessionism, and autonomy.
The parallel conflict with the New People’s Army (NPA) should also be pursued with greater vigor, and the insurgents terminated and neutralized permanently.
As of today, the NPAs are woefully fragmented and they no longer pose a threat to the central government.
The NPAs are a nuisance and the ageing leaders of the CPP-NPA-NDF are simply buying time.
Admittedly, the problems of the Muslims and Communist insurgents are rooted in poverty, ignorance, unemployment, and injustice which the government of President Duterte must address and resolve if lasting peace is to be achieved.
In sum, the Bangsamoro and Communist insurgency problems are more complex and deep-rooted but these are the problems that impinge on national security and national unity.
When all is said and done, President Duterte has not only committed to achieve a clean government and drug-free country but also a permanent peace and unity.
It is piecemeal but it can be done.
You be the judge.
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