Sending Mautes to Malaysia

If the plan of government to send the Maute surrenders to Malaysia to study agriculture will push through, there is only one overarching explanation to this. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is dead serious in giving peace all the chances to succeed, and, without saying, he is facing this group squarely. Otherwise, he would charge all of them in court, because a mere surrender does not take away liabilities in committing a crime.

The choice of Malaysia as training site for the surrenderers is perfect. They can learn many things from there, aside from agriculture. The people are mostly Muslims. Their costumes and traditions are like Moros. Despite getting their independence 11 years after the Philippines, Malaysia is far ahead in terms of development including rural and urban planning.

Perhaps, what is more astonishing here is how a 92-year-old former prime minister, who voluntarily resigned from office, managed to come back into politics without necessarily being a politician. Dr. Mahathir Mohammad had already bid goodbye to politics, but when things appeared wrong in his country, he still managed to call his people and they rallied around him. He is now the new Prime Minister of Malaysia.

The Duterte administration is pursuing a policy of talking to those who fight government, including those which are either branded extremist or bandits. Such policy even earns criticisms from many quarters, who chastised government for babying these criminals. Imagine, at some instances, calling the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and now the Maute Group (MG) to peace talks? Set aside the National Democratic Front/Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army, whose peace process with government has been off-and-on and off. To this day, both parties have hard time resuscitating back to life this ailing peace process.

This policy is laudable. It is practical and builds goodwill among men and communities. Few leaders, nay politicians, would dare do this, especially those who are obsessively legalistic.

It might appear at first glance, however, as a weakness, but seen in totality, it is greatness, because it puts the government in higher moral ground. Viewed in all other aspects, the government can never be an underdog.

However, while we praise the Duterte administration for this pragmatic approach, the fact remains that short term approach cannot exchange for long term solution. Palliatives, more often, complicate problem or create more problems.

Without addressing the main root of the insurgency in Mindanao, which is the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people, no solution will ever hold. It might be true that the Maute Group still has remnants. But to us, their capacity to reappear and pose serious threats to government is remote. They are on the run, and they have no mass base to count on.

To us, threats can emerge from frustrations of people over lack of progress in addressing the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people.  In this regard, the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which is currently under deliberation in Congress is the most immediate antidote to radicalism and formation of extremist groups in Mindanao.