Peace in Mindanao

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Sunday, March 30, 2014


WHILE everyone would not argue about the need for peace, several friends of different political persuasions sounded pessimistic when asked about the recent peace deal signed between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

I could immediately sense that anti-Moro bias seeped into this pessimism. Then there is this anti-Noynoy sentiment that grew because of the administration’s handling of the Yolanda crisis.

Still, my Sagittarian optimism tells me that peace in the south could work. But making peace in Mindanao work needs something more than the signing of documents followed by anniversaries of the signing event.

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I believe much of the responsibility in moving peace forward rests on the MILF leadership. Many even in Mindanao could not forget how Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) squandered the peace agreement he signed some two decades ago. There is skepticism that the MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim is better than Misuari.

More than dealing with rivals out to derail the peace process, the MILF has to show it is better at democratic governance and achieving development than traditional Muslim leaders and the Philippine government.

Many look at the peace process pursued by the Aquino government within the context of 2016. Perhaps, we should consider the short- and long-term impact of peace in Mindanao within the context of Asean integration.

Let us credit the Aquino government for enhancing the Philippine economic and political position within the Asean context.

Of course, there are several complicated kinks that need to be ironed out and one important piece that sticks out like a swollen foot is our Sabah claim.

Then of course, we cannot compartmentalize the continuing tension with China over claims at the West Philippine Sea. Most still think within the context of the Philippines being a pawn in the imperialist tug-o-war between China and the US. As we approach the formalization of the Asean Economic Community, consider the possibilities of a stronger Asean political alliance that strengthens the Filipino position vis-à-vis China and the Americans.

***

The peace process in relation with the Communist insurgency is proving to be more elusive. However, we should not consider the arrests of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon as signaling the demise of the movement. The Marcos dictatorship made that mistake when military authorities arrested Jose Maria Sison and Bernabe “Kumander Dante” Buscayno, and eliminated others like Ed Jopson.

Thinking her government had gained the moral high ground with the collapse of the peace process in 1986-1987, P-Noy’s mother Cory “unsheathed the sword of war.”

However, despite an internal split, the movement continued to thrive while Cory’s low-intensity conflict strategy left us with influential gangs like the Kuratong.

Still, I believe that peace through a negotiated settlement is the best route. If a country as divided as South Africa during the days of apartheid could resolve armed conflict through negotiations, why can’t the Philippines? Expressing this line once, a friend retorted that it is difficult to negotiate with communists. But come to think of it, communists also consider the late Nelson Mandela a comrade. And the African National Congress (ANC) credited the Cubans under Fidel Castro for having played an important role in the peace process.

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The arrest of the Tiamzons in Cebu came as a surprise. Samot when I learned they have been staying since early last year in a safe house in San Fernando. I always thought, following the “back to the basics” line during the reaffirm-reform debates more than a decade ago, that the Tiamzons are constantly moving from one rural guerrilla base to another.

On the other hand, arrests of aging rebel leaders pave the way for the assumption of younger rebels. I just hope the new generation of movement leaders is more open to pursuing peace through dialog and negotiations.

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I am glad Cebu City leaders opened the South Road Properties to bikers. Bahala nag naunhan sa ta sa Iloilo. And what happened to the initiative of Citom’s Joy Tumulak for the construction of a skating park in Cebu City? Naunhan na sab ta sa Syudad sa Lapu-Lapu, bay.

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Sun.Star ICT columnist Janet Toral stressed the need for a better Internet infrastructure if the Philippines should become more competitive in the field of e-commerce. She spoke during the E-Commerce Forum organized by Tenminutes.ph to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the birth of the Internet in the Philippines.

Somewhere else in the city, while I was reading a tweet about this, an ICT expert was explaining in a meeting with radio dyRC’s Gene Valenzuela why renting a server abroad for an Internet radio project is cheaper than having one here in Cebu.

(Follow anol_cebu on Twitter and Instagram)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 31, 2014.

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