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Nephew Nick Returns to Mindanao


By: Bob Boyer


My nephew Nick visits his fiancée Clara (not their real names) in Mindanao a couple of times a year, as they work to get her visa to come to the U.S.

Dear Nick,

Your Mom mentioned a couple of days ago that you are scheduled to visit Clara soon in Mindanao. Our conversation reminded me that I’ve been meaning for some time to send you copies of my articles in “VIA Times.” I’m embarrassed I have not followed through. I’ve attached the July and August articles that have now appeared in the magazine. I think it’s fitting, given our friendly debate, that I take Duterte to task in July and give him credit in August, grudgingly. The August article deals with the Bangsamoro Treaty, the long-awaited agreement between the previous Muslim Separatists and the Central Government. The Muslim areas of Mindanao still have to vote on it, but if the Treaty becomes law, and holds, it would be a major legacy for Duterte. Duterte, long-time Mayor of Davao, Mindanao, is popular throughout Mindanao. He has pledged to get the Treaty enacted. So, since you are headed there, I decided to update my August article on Mindanao.

Here’s what I found by going to my usual sources, Philstar and Inquirer.net, the online versions of “The Philippine Star” and the “Philippine Daily Inquirer.” I also keep an eye on the occasional pertinent items in the “NYTimes” and the “Wall Street Journal.” The last two first. Sunday’s NYT (Sept. 2, 2018) has an article entitled, “Philippine Women Fire Back After Duterte Jokes About Rape.” OK, I won’t go into detail; the title says it all, sorry. You can check it on line. In some ways, I thought, well at least the NYT correspondents haven’t reported terrorism in Mindanao. But then I remembered a recent, brief notice in the WSJ about violence in Mindanao, which, unfortunately my two in-country Philippine sources have borne out.

Philstar had two articles about bombings in Southwest Mindanao, in the town of Isulan, Kudurat (Sept. 3and Sept. 4, 2018). Both dealt with two bombings in Isulan. The first, on August 28, resulted in 3 dead, 34 wounded; the second, on September 2, caused 2 deaths and 34 wounded. The earlier article suspected the terrorist group BIFF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The later article said the Philippine Army had declared definitely that it was BIFF and that both the Army and National Police had been attacking them recently. The group is associated with ISIS and, as its name suggests, it is opposed to the Bangsamoro Treaty.

The Inquirer.net article (August 31) appeared after the first but before the second bomb explosion, but Duterte was already hinting at extending Martial Law beyond December 31. Clearly he faces significant challenges to see the Treaty enacted. I hope he can manage, preferably without extending Martial Law.

I realize that you will not be in Muslim Mindanao, but you are a good observer. I’m curious about how the non-Muslims of Mindanao are viewing the Treaty. I don’t expect that this topic will be at the top of the list when you are together with Clara, but I would be interested in what you hear on the street. Enjoy your visit.

Contact Uncle Bob at Robert.boyer@snc.edu or <anamericaninmanila>.

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