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Today, with exhausting fanfare, the framework of a peace agreement, forged by Marvic Leonen, with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was signed by the government. This is not the first of such agreements. There have been several and only one other succeeded; every attempt that followed it failed.
Marcos signed the only successful peace pact with the Muslims, ending a more savage war of peace between Christian settlers and Muslim indigenes than the one in Algeria. Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front fought, not skirmishes, but pitched battles involving thousands men in arms on each side. By the terms of the Marcos treaty, Misuari agreed to end the bloodshed and paid the price of peace with exile in the Middle East. It is small exaggeration to call him the greatest Muslim leader since Saladin. His was a dream of a Muslim homeland, a caliphate with a communist concern for the common man, religious zeal tempered by fraternal feeling, and always and ever the respect for the dignity of a long scorned race called moros: a derogatory term by which he called his movement and his legions—the Moro National Liberal Front. Almost as if Martin Luther King had called the civil rights movement and the rise of the Negro man.
President Ramos ironed out the last wrinkles of the Marcos treaty so that peace with the MNLF has lasted to this day. Indeed, the MNLF were so fully integrated in the republic and had so adapted to its politics that rebel commanders turned politicians were viewed by the next generation of Muslims as as much the enemies of Muslim aspiration as the republic that will not let them go.
The succeeding Moro Islamic Liberation Front at no time and nowhere attained the size and capability of the old MNLF. But the MILF has been fighting a tired republic; no longer sure that the cause of union for its own sake is sufficient to offset the blood of battle. To be sure, our armies continue undefeated but our Muslim brothers remain unbowed.
The only prospects remaining are two. First is the extermination of our Muslim brothers along with the extinction of their separatist aspiration. We have the numbers and the arms to do it. The second is the unthinkable not to say unconstitutional dismemberment of our republic without a fight. As though Mexico had lost Texas to the United States without taking down the Alamo—something President Estrada showed could be done when he razed the capital fortification of the MILF at Abu Bakar.
The first prospect is hateful; the second is abhorrent to all Filipinos, especially the army, who would rather shoot their leaders than shed a square foot of sovereignty without a fight.
But now the impossible, without being unthinkable and abhorrent, has happened. Marvic Leonen has forged, and the government has signed with the MILF, a peace accord that does not trample on the Constitution; that does not mock the sacrifices of the army and renders its losses vain; that does not deny the inalienable rights of free men to any Filipino be he Christian or be she Muslim; a peace accord that does not lose a square foot of our sovereign land nor divide the indissoluble union of the Filipino race along religious lines between Christian and Muslim.
This achievement—call it a first step if you want—we owe to Marvic Leonen who surely deserves better than the name his parents gave him.
Let us imagine a scene out of Lawrence of Arabia.
A Muslim commander sits in the sand across from a reclining Marvic Leonen.
“Tell me, effendi,” says the Muslim, “is it fated that all peace agreements with Muslims shall fail as surely as it was fated that I would be born a boy and given a boy’s name?”
Marvic answers, “I don’t know but maybe, for I was born a boy but given a girl’s name."
“Indeed,” says the commander, “as you bear a wrong name, it seems, effendi, that you can choose any name you wish in its stead and write the fate of this or any agreement with your finger across the sky in stars.”
“I hope so,” says Marvic with a wistful note in his voice. “For I choose to call myself Loren, as in Loren of Arabia.”
“Perhaps not effendi,” said the commander, “for that too is a girl’s name; indeed the name of one who voted for the anti-cybercrime law. Shall I choose a better one for you, effendi? Then I shall call you Leonen, which alliterates with the name of another stranger who befriended Muslims. Yes, Leonen of Arabia or at the very least Lanao, for the leonine way you leaped in a single bound across the religious chasm that divided brothers to bring a just and lasting peace to all our homes.”
Thank you, Leonen. How fittingly you spoke so little—and others talked so much—on this occasion celebrating your triumph.