By FRANCIS N. TOLENTINO
Is peace really elusive for our Muslim brethren in Mindanao? Only a few days after the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) – a seeming ray of hope for peace and stability in the Mindanao Region – the nation was shocked by the bombing at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, in the midst of the celebration of Holy Mass. This show of hostility is indeed condemnable and should not be left unresolved.
The bombing incident claimed 21 lives and wounded over a hundred civilians and military personnel. Sadly, despite relentless efforts of the national government led by President Duterte to achieve genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao, resistive forces hamper the peace and development process with brutalities such as the one witnessed in this recent Jolo bombing. While negotiations for peace continue and the quest for a win-win solution is pursued for the good of Christians and Muslims alike, useless violence remains a stumbling block to the achievement of solidarity and harmony in the Mindanao region.
Peace is a prerequisite for the attainment of progress and stability and for the deliverance of our fellow Filipinos in Mindanao who have long been saddled by poverty and caught in the crossfire. The success of the BOL plebiscite last January 21 beamed positive signs for the long-awaited unity in vision of the people in the region. However, the Jolo bombing posed another challenge to the process – an impediment that will surely revive fear and disquiet in the people. The Bangsamoro Organic Law can be likened to a key that will unlock the door to a new peaceful, progressive, and united Mindanao. Sadly though, there remain insurgent groups that have not fully understood the benefits of ratifying the BOL.
In the midst of futile hostilities and useless division, innocent lives are caught in the vicious cycle of violence and poverty and remain submerged in fright and hopelessness. Like most of us, the people in Mindanao dream of a peaceful, happy, and prosperous life for their families. I reiterate my denunciation of the bombing in Jolo and join the call for the arrest and detention of its perpetrators.