Six months after terrorists bombed Our Lady of Mt Carmel Cathedral Jolo in, Sulu, the church open its doors on the 14th of July. The bombing itself represented not a new wave of terrorist separatism in Mindanao but rather the final gasp of extremism among those who refused to embrace the autonomous parliamentary political system that President Rodrigo Duterte delivered to the erstwhile troubled region. In keeping his promise to the people of Mindanao, the former Mayor of Davao (and first ever modern Philippine leader from Mindanao) set in motion a new era in which Muslim, Catholic and others can live harmoniously.
The key to Duterte’s success in bringing peace to Mindanao was not just his sincere desire to bring political and economic reform to the entire Philippines, but as someone with Muslim members of his family, Duterte was very much aware of the issues facing Moros (Philippine Muslims) whilst he was equally aware of the fact that foreign backers of terror groups including those behind Daesh (aka ISIS) had a hand in waging war on the peaceful people of Mindanao.
Since the tragic attack in January, the parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has sat and begun to conduct its business. After a struggle which dates back to the Spanish colonial era, Duterte has finally brought about a realistic and widely supported mechanism to transform suspicion into cooperation and violence into parliamentary politics. All the while terror is subsiding thanks to a temporary martial law situation that is widely supported by the long suffering people of the region.
As the bells of Our Lady of Mt Carmel Cathedral rung out over Jolo for the first time in months, it is helpful to remember how far internal peace has come thanks to the political leadership of Rodrigo Duterte.