"Is autonomy the answer?"
Muslim separatists in Mindanao are temporarily appeased by the Bangsamoro Basic Law which supposedly accords them autonomy in certain areas in the South.
In Spain, an equally extreme form of separatism is being demanded in the Basque region of Catalan. Located in Spain’s northern part, Catalan has been seeking independence from Spain since the reign of the late Francisco Franco, known as “Caudillo.” Franco kept Catalan under control until his death in 1975.
With the dictator’s demise, the flame of Catalan passion for a separate state raged anew. Pablo Picasso’s iconic painting of Guernica was inspired by the civil war between South and North led by Catalan separatists.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is presently facing sharp criticism for his handling of the violent Catalan protests. Hundreds of people gathered in the square in front of Catalonia’s regional government in Barcelona for a rally by the center-right pro-union Ciudadanos party.
Waving Spanish, Catalan and European Union flags, the demonstrators called on Madrid to defend and restore the rights of Catalans opposed to independence. Addressing the supporters, Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera accused Spain’s caretaker Socialist government of not doing enough to stop the chaos in Barcelona, one of Europe’s most attractive destinations. The Catalans, as observed by international analysts, are adopting the tactics of the Hong Kong protests which have been going on for months. In Barcelona, the protesters used trucks to barricade themselves against Spain’s government troops who used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd.
How long the independence-seeking protesters can carry their campaign depends on their resolve. With a different culture and language from the majority from the rest of Spain and the Madrid government, Catalans are hoping for outside support from the European Union. But the EU itself is rocked by the British plan to exit from the Union.
That’s another story which has divided the once-solid United Kingdom which could also see separatist movements from Scotland and Northern Ireland.
In Budapest where I was once posted as Philippine ambassador, there was an occasion when Spain’s envoy was from the Catalonia region. When I noted that he was Basque, he merely replied that he was representing Spain in Hungary. End of conversation.
Sanchez has rejected talks with the separatists and detained many of its leaders. He wants the Catalan leadership to condemn the separatist movement before any talks could begin. But the separatists asked: What more do they have do to stop the disturbance in Barcelona? “Set Barcelona ablaze, they are already doing that every night,” the separatists claim.
“Spain needs a government that leads,” said Pablo Casado, the leader of the main conservative opposition Popular Party during a rally in Toledo, central Spain.
As a former colony of Spain, the Philippines somehow has an affinity with the country it fought to gain freedom and independence from. We hope for a peaceful resolution of the Catalans’ desire for independence without blood being shed.
The Spanish people and the Catalans, after all, are from the same country. Autonomy perhaps is the answer—if not a separate state the Catalans clamor for.