CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/10 February) — Hardly a day passes but that there’s violence somewhere in Mindanao, especially in areas of contention in the peace negotiations. Ambush, kidnapping, killing, harassment, sabotage, other disturbances that offend law and order.
These unseemly incidents are happening mostly in places where the MILF wants to have exclusive jurisdiction, eventually to be under the Bangsamoro entity which it will control.
In other words, even as peace talks are taking place, peace is being shattered, negated by unchecked violence and criminality.
One wonders what the MILF is doing about them; just as we wonder what the deal is with the BIFF.
It’s very bad that people continue to be victimized indiscriminately—regardless of whether they are non-combatant, non-partisan, plain citizen, or just visiting.
Such occurrences bespeak barbarism: uncivilized behavior, dishonorable conduct. But rarely do we hear them denounced by the very people who are suing for peace or demanding special concessions or privilege from our society. No expression of disapproval, let alone outrage. No Fatwa.
What kind of Peace?
Let’s suppose that a peace agreement is signed this week; will there be peace next week? Or next month? Will killing or terrorism cease? Will there be order and respect for law?
Obviously not, because although the MILF is armed and have access to elements operating outside the law, they have no control.
In fact, their presence and posturing tends to destabilize conditions, keeping law enforcers from effectively establishing order.
This raises a question of what kind of peace they are negotiating.
Although the communities where these bad things take place have their own government—barangay, municipal, provincial, regional levels!—the people in them have little or no influence over events or movements in their premises. Too intimidated, they dare not intervene.
So it is difficult to imagine what kind of peace is contemplated by the MILF to obtain in these communities.
Can there be true peace where people have no control over their local arrangements, where their own government is too intimidated as to be able to impose the popular will. What kind of peace is it that is readily manipulated by internal or external pressure?
Peace cannot come about merely by signing pieces of paper, followed by self-congratulating rhetoric.
Peace is where, on one hand, there is no enmity, distrust, or violence (negative factors) and, on the other, there is goodwill, fraternal relations, and civility or mutual respect (positive factors).
With neither set of factors obtaining, the issue begs the question. Thus, one wonders where the so-called peace-making efforts are headed.
Trust but Verify!
If the peace being sought shows no possibility of fulfillment while negotiations are taking place, which is the time to show cause or goodwill, how can people be convinced of its possibility in a theoretical future?
Will neighborliness reign in Mindanao communities at the end of the peace process? How does the MILF or whatever Bangsamoro entity is established guarantee the peace? Are the duly- established governments in the areas they claim to control operational?
If they’re not; if they have no demonstrable capability for autonomy or self-governance; if they are able to operate mainly through the dictation or guidance of arms-bearing overlords, then we are merely setting up the people in them for a feudal dispensation, turning them over to an oligarchy, depriving them of their role in a democracy and its benefits.
To be fair to the people, let there be an earnest implementation of the Local Government Code in their respective barangays, municipalities, provinces. And hold the ARMM government to their responsibility to perform and demonstrate good governance as never before.
That’s one way to verify whether we can even begin to trust in the so-called Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Remember how we were assured that we could trust the so-called “Final Agreement” with the MNLF in 1996?
Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at development academy of Philippines, vice chair of Local Government Academy, member of the Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. [email protected]