Palasan: It’s still economics

IT’S now a footnote in our history: A faction of the Moro National Liberation Front assaulted Zamboanga City. When MNLF fighters surrendered and were asked why they came to Zamboanga, the usual refrain was the promise of money just to attend a peaceful rally.

When I passed Divisoria two weeks ago, I saw anti-pork protesters staging a vigil. I did not need to ask them why, but I saw they were hungry and emaciated. The reason is unmistakable.

I know that during the election rallies, politicians gather crowds upon a promise of meals and allowances.

No. This is not an outright declaration that when people gather in public for apparently legitimate causes, they do so for money. There are still those who show their public outrage out of principles. People still attend election rallies to show support to their candidates.

But we cannot also deny the reality that the masses join the communist’s movement not due to principles but due to the chance to carry guns. With guns, these rebels have better chances of obtaining food.

We are beset with different groups trying to wrestle power from the government. These power grabbers hog the headlines every time they want their presence felt, that is to say, that they still exist. Well obviously, Nur Misuari’s MNLF faction wanted attention. The communists, at a time that they are unpopular, would stage ambushes to project the image of strength.

It’s now a truism that these groups cannot be quelled by mere military action. These groups draw their strength from the impoverished masses who think joining armed groups as their only chance of survival.

The government should identify the hardcore leaders and hunt their heads, but target the mass base not with arms, but with food in the tables.

The Zamboanga seize is not an eye-opener. Many times in the past, the mass support of attempts at power grab is not founded on ideologies but on the promise of money. We have not learned from these lessons; we have not stopped these armed groups.

It was right to hunt for the heads of the MNLF commanders who led the Zamboanga seize. No one has the right to kill people and burn houses with impunity. To do otherwise will make us a failed state.

It is another story with respect to the mass base.

Our historical lessons on peace talks have been discouraging. Then President Ramos talked peace with Nur Misuari and gave the latter billions, only to me squandered with battalion of partygoers occupying the entire posh hotels.

Then President Cory talked peace with the communists and released their leaders from prisons. The freed leaders only used their freedom to re-group and strengthen the communist movement.

For the leaders of these armed groups, peace talks are only opportunities to exact billions and to re-group. You cannot possibly convince Joma Sison to lay down arms. He would not stop until Philippines become communist state.

If there is any chance of ridding us with armed groups, the key is to isolate the leaders from the mass base.

Feed the people. Provide them shelter. Make them healthy. Educate them. Let them feel that in our country, there is still future for the poor. It is the hungry and the hopeless who is vulnerable to the promises of the armed groups.

If the reason for the masses in joining armed groups is survival, then it is imperative for the government to provide them the life-savers.

The bottom line is economics. Philippine economy has surged. Our tax collection has improved.

But these data are empty if the improved economy is only felt by the elite in our society. The poor has been waiting for trickle down but all they have are empty plates. The taxes have ballooned but instead of roads, post estates have been built by politicians and their civilian conspirators.

Stop the peace talks. Stop giving billions to the leaders of these armed-groups. The money may as well be used to feed and educate the mass base.

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