CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/07 March) — “Since wars begin in the minds of men,” states the charter of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”
One wonders what precautions have been made, what defenses installed, to ensure that there will be durable peace in Mindanao.
Peace in parts of our region is so fragile and so readily shattered by barbaric malcontents that its defenses need to be shored up on both physical and psychological levels.
Even now peace is under attack on many fronts.
If it’s not by some out-of-line MILF operative, it’s a breakaway group like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that’s breaking up the peace. If not the BIFF, it’s the disaffected Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) or some faction of it.
There are the Abu Sayyaf, the New People’s Army, and disgruntled followers of some warlord, sultan, datu, or what have you.
If it’s none of these, others still unknown or unnamed manage to roil and scuttle the peace of some community or other. So it’s a matter of urgency that firm defenses be constructed, a task that is by no means easy.
We don’t even know how many such groups there are. Those who think they know don’t know what armaments the groups possess or how many and where these are stored.
It’s ridiculous that the police and military don’t know, considering how large their intelligence funds and personnel are!
Not only must we contend with overt threats from these groups, we must also deal with not-so-obvious threats including the mental-psychological variety. For there are hotheads in our midst, swashbucklers and adventurers—even elected officials who ought to know better than substitute macho posturing and violence for good governance.
There are others who employ “Dirty Harry tricks” to supplant the rule of law. More on this later on.
But such is the weakness of the defenses of peace in our society, so enduring the urge to barbarism, so compelling the resort to violence, and so ironic that it should suffuse the mindset of even those charged with securing public order or mental health.
Thus, many people are confused… many are so addled that they cannot distinguish between the righteous and the barbaric… or so corrupted that the need to uphold peace makes no sense to them. It is such people that cause unrest and insurgency to thrive.
Insecurity is the ultimate threat to peace. Lack of education or ignorance keeps people unstable and unable to cope with reality.
It ought to have been very obvious to our policy-makers, decision-makers, and peace negotiators that to secure the peace, more educational facilities, teachers, and books are needed; that the whole array of developmental activities be furnished or made readily available to Mindanao and its afflicted communities.
But as matters stand, there is a dearth of livelihood opportunities; economic viability is very low, and health services poor. And so, lacking the basic defenses of peace, any gains from the long processes of negotiations may be jeopardized by continuing insecurity.
Moreover, with poor educational facilities and inadequate supply of educators, narrow minds cannot be opened and discrimination, distrust, or prejudice cannot be addressed.
The defenses of peace require breaking down of barriers to understanding. The cobwebs of the past into which people have been ensnared need to be cleared.
Through all the time and processes it took for the peace talks to progress who has been minding the build up and institutionalization of the defenses of peace?
And what peace-promotion programs can desirous communities or groups avail of if they wish to help the process along?
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]