The Mindanao problem cannot be solved by drawing imaginary lines dividing our territory based on what is the majority religion prevalent in the various regions, for example the imaginary homeland called Bangsamoro. That is just emphasizing one of the reasons why the conflict exists in the first place – overly emphasized religious differences resulting to skewed public policies favoring the majority – making the minorities feel like outsiders. At the highest level, it boils down to the Catholic Church’s dominance over the religious minority at the national level. If you cede some parts of the country to the Muslims, you are technically betraying the new religious minorities that will be created in the new Muslim-majority territory and the cycle repeats perhaps in a smaller scale. Then what? The Muslims will impose their morality into public policy, e.g., shariah law, on everyone in their new mandate as the Catholics had been doing for centuries already. In my opinion, part of the long-term solution to the problem with the Muslim minority is a road that has not been considered by our very religious Christian/Catholic/Protestant leaders because it’s against their religious beliefs: secularization of the Philippine government. This is mandated by that piece of paper we call the Philippine Constitution, that the separation of church and state should be inviolable. But what does it mean if this principle has not taken root in our society? It’s like anything else in the constitution, really. Ignored. Our government has four branches: the three, executive, legislative, and judicial are supposed to be (in theory) co-equal, while the fourth branch is the non-taxpaying, vast land-holding Catholic Church whose role is to be our governments’ authority on truths and morals and represented by their bishop leaders, and so is more privileged. This is a historical artifact of the officially the same Church and State during the Spanish era. As long as our government keep on consulting the Catholic Church for policies that affect everybody, the motivation to secede will be stronger. Our country should honor the principle of separation as enshrined in the constitution as an element to any peace agreement with the religious minorities.
Case in point, and this was highest in the time of Cory, the president attends Catholic mass in official capacity. Even masses are held in Malacañang from time to time. The president and her government as well as all public officials should practice their religion privately. We can start by issuing rules and policies like official public events should not be started with a Christian prayer, public schools should not build a Catholic or Protestant chapels within its territory, or that the Cult of Mary or the Santo Nino should not be allowed to display their imahens in public offices.