A SOCIAL wrong can never be rectified by committing a wrongful act, more so, if such counter-measure is so grievous bordering on insanity as shown in that desperate suicidal blast inside the Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, killing and wounding hundreds of innocent churchgoers, then followed by another blast in a Mosque in Zamboanga, manifesting the truism that violence begets violence.
Indeed, violent extremism that began in the Marawi crisis a year or so ago continues to create havoc in Mindanao with consequences which are horrible even to contemplate. Let us reflect for a while on the Mindanao socio-economic, political and cultural realities to understand violent extremism.
That Mindanao has become a fertile ground for violent extremism has long been manifested in the Mindanao war which is the second longest war in the world, next to the Middle East conflict.
Colonialism in the land of the brave and the free followed by neo-colonialism is the culprit in the paradoxically poverty-stricken but very rich land oozing with natural resources. Its forest was the richest on earth with regards to bio-diversity. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, Mindanao, per unit area, was the richest on earth. The 5,000-ha. Mt. Kitanglad alone contained flora and fauna which is far greater than what is found in the one billion-hectare continent of North America.
The natural wealth is not just found above the ground; beneath are some 72 kinds of minerals especially gold that saw the continuous mining at the expense of the environment.
It is even described as the “food basket” of the nation, yet, it is where hunger is glaring, based on SWS survey. The choicest of land is controlled by Trans-National Corporation and big business cartel, showcasing some 300,000 hectares of plantations that produce high value crops to satisfy the consumerist lifestyle of the materialist, capitalistic northern countries. What a paradox in a rich agricultural country supplying fruits, coconut products palm oil to other countries yet cannot even produce the very basic staple, i.e. rice and milk, to its people.
Based on the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) study, all the regions in Mindanao are suffering from high poverty gap ratios compared to other regions in the Visayas and Luzon with ARMM having the high poverty incidence of 70%. In fact, of the 25 poorest provinces in the country, some 15 are in Mindanao.
Where are our Indigenous People (Lumads and Muslims) who were once the masters of the land, working in the spirit of sharing and service in the land that no one owns? How can you own something that will outlast you? The forests are their market-place. You want to eat üsa or baboy-damo, no problem, just go to the forest and hunt. It is also their “pharmacy” as they know what leaves to eat as their medicine.
Where are our IPs now? They are in the marginalized areas as the land has been bombarded with chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides at a horrible rate that as if some two thousand dump trucks of toxic chemicals are being dumped to the water table every day. Worse, of the 14 chemicals being used by these plantations, eight are already banned in other countries. In fact, according to studies, Dole Food Co., Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc. and Dow Chemical Co. were sued by more 1,000 banana plantation workers from Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama in a new round of cases, claiming injury from a pesticide.
The chemical, dibromochloro-propane has been linked to sterility, miscarriages, birth defects, cancer, eye problems, skins disorders and kidney damage, according to eight separate complaints. Don’t you know that many babies are being born now in Mindanao without any more arms or fingers?
The root cause of Mindanao conflict is rooted in social injustice, gross inequities and poverty. The only legitimate countervailing force as provided for by the highest law of the land, the 1987 Constitution, is to promote the viability and growth of cooperatives as instrument of social justice, equity and economic development.
Indeed, when the poor and the oppressed harness their collective power through cooperativism, they are empowered as the root cause of poverty in Mindanao in the disempowerment of the people to have access and control over their resources which are fast slipping through their fingers. Who Controls? Who Decides? Who Benefits? Only a few oligarchs while the people are inside the vicious cycle of poverty.
What is very painful is now happening as election time approaches. Politics in this country has reduced the politicians into self-gratification machines whose vision is only up to the next election. No mention of important issues such as Climate Change or Violent Extremism.
Let notice be served: Social transformation can only be done if the sovereign people exercise their power rightfully which is, to be empowered through cooperativism to effect social change, not through the useless political exercises but by harnessing their collective power. Indeed, cooperativism never violent extremism is the answer.