Zamboanga mosque bombing: Sign of a religious war brewing in Mindanao?

The latest terrorist attack, this time on a mosque in Zamboanga City that reportedly killed two and injured four, already points to a disturbing emerging trend that follows the recent passing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) granting autonomy to several predominantly Muslim provinces. The attack comes within days of a deadlier attack on a Roman Catholic Church that had killed 27 believed to have been perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic terrorist group.

The Abu Sayyaf has, for some time been actively involved in Islamic politics in Mindanao. Searches on Google for “Abu Sayyaf” correlate closely with interest in an autonomous Muslim Mindanao of the sort the BOL supposedly achieved.

The fact that the BOL is seen to be largely an initiative spurred by Abu Sayyaf rival group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in cooperation with the Philippine Government could point to some problematic aspects in the “regional autonomy” granted to Muslim provinces in Mindanao. Muslim Mindanao politics are largely driven by various “Islamic” groups that are rooted in one form of jihad or another and, as such, share a violent common denominator. This is evident in the war-like and revolutionary-themed names of these “movements” and “fronts”.

As such, there is growing reason to believe that a “Bangsamoro Nation” forged in collusion with one of these groups could possibly incite further revolutionary or radicalised fervour in others.

Jolo terrorist attack could justify Moro Islamic Liberation Front renege on “promise” to disarm

The successful ratification of the new “Bangsamoro Organic Law” is a victory long fought for by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The BOL is a culmination of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s 40-year struggle for autonomy, including on-and-off talks with the government spanning the administration of 4 presidents.

As such, it is quite likely that the project is seen by other factions of the broader Islamic “movement” in Muslim Mindanao as a victory by a single tribe that could then go on to dominate the others. Others deride the MILF victory as capitulating to or, worse, rewarding a group with an appetite for war. Indeed, clashes between the MILF and the Philippine military has, at last count, resulted in an estimated 120,000 deaths. The group also continues to maintain 30,000 armed combatants which served as the bargaining chip in exchange for rule over this now-“autonomous” region.

Indeed, Get Real Post writer Ilda wrote back in February 2015, An agreement with just one Muslim rebel group will not bring peace to Mindanao. This was just a few weeks after elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front massacred 44 Special Action Force officers in Mamasapano.

Other rebel groups like the newly-formed group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) – the original Muslim rebel group who managed to win autonomy from the Philippine government in 1996 – all want their own version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

This alone would be ample justification the MILF could use to renege on its “promise” to disarm its bandit army. What then if they do? What’s the plan? It seems there is no alternative to an “autonomous” Bangsamoro “nation” ruled by warlords — the way it’s always been.