CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/19 July)–Part of our hopes for the Bangsamoro administration is to perform better in developing and maintaining their communities.
Nowhere in our island region so far can one find really well-developed communities except in the expensive, privately-built, and fenced portions of some barangays in the capitals.
The larger portion of the community, the one without a perimeter fence, is anything but well-developed. Maintenance is poor, rundown structures are left to decay, trash collection is uncertain.
What’s bad is, this is the portion that belongs to the public domain, managed by public officials and supervised by the government.
Leaving these portions of the community in a state of anarchy or disorder gives a wrong message. It projects the officials in charge—and the science of public administration itself—as careless, shabby, and without standards.
The persistence of blight and slum areas in barangays paints a picture of neglect and uncaring on the part of its administrators.
It shouldn’t require too great an effort for the Bangsamoro to get their barangays to shape up and shame the rest of the region by providing a model of community development and governance worth emulating.
To do so would present a glaring contrast to communities outside their region. A neat, orderly surrounding would be a flattering demeanor to complement their unique ways and arts and culture.
It would call attention to their finer, gentler qualities and thereby entice visitors to come see for themselves and stimulate tourism.
Such an effort would be infinitely more impressive if, without even waiting for the Bangsamoro Basic Law to come into effect, they mobilize their respective communities to be fastidious about sanitation and cleanliness.
Such an initiative even now would be edifying for all Mindanaons and inspire them to do the same in their own areas.
Coupled with restraint in displaying weaponry in public, along with a call to disarm and adopt the ways of peace and reconciliation, it will project a refreshing atmosphere in Muslim Mindanao, a region too long perceived as brutal and violence-prone.
Hopefully then, as many have been praying so long for, the spirit of peace will cause violence to recede and be eventually stigmatized.
The spirit of peace in every community may also blow away the veils of enmity or distrust and melt long-festering grudges that have cost so much in lives and property.
The point about removing weaponry as indispensable implements for assuring personal and collective sense of security cannot be overemphasized.
It may presage a dawn of peace and prosperity over the Bangsamoro. The coming into effect of self-governance or autonomy should be understood and promoted as a new era.
A genuine decommissioning of arms and an appeal to forsake violence as a means of resolving disputes would be a really huge development. It would be a consummation devoutly to be wished—a most welcome peace dividend, a benefit conferred by the birth of a new region.
The peace process should now yield to a series of affirmative acts that give meaning to the new era.
It shouldn’t cost so much to start the initiative; it can begin with persuasion and an appeal to goodwill.
With cooperation and support from the many civil society groups in Mindanao and beyond, it should be possible to get the ball rolling in within a short time.
There are models to emúlate for such initiative. The practical and social technology of Gawad Kalinga or Habitat for Humanity may be useful for such a community development thrust.
There is a peace model of Costa Rica, where arms have been decommissioned so the cost of munitions and killing machines can be saved and invested instead to education and life-giving, life-sustaining projects.
The arts and crafts of low-cost shelter construction could be a unique contribution of the Bangsamoro; you know, tasteful design and layout incorporating the okir and other styles, maintained the modern, sanitary, and culturally edifying way.
Given the generally shabby management of the country’s 42,000+ barangays today, with their slovenly appearance, the Bangsamoro could stand out all the more—culturally, economically, politically. (Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of the Philippines; member, Permanent Mission to the United Nations; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Gov’t Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee, most outstanding columnist. Today he is the national convenor of the Gising Barangay Movement, Inc. Readers may reach him at [email protected])