CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/20 August)–It’s been a decade and a half since Pres. Joseph Ejercito “Erap” Estrada embarked on a reckless course in Mindanao—by declaring “All-Out War” against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, scuttling their bailiwick and military command and control facility in Camp Abubakar.
He was obviously ill-advised. Or the idea may have occurred to him during one of his drunken orgies at Malacanang. It was ironic that in his fondness for referring to himself as the Father of the Nation (Ama ng Bayan), it didn’t occur to him that no “father” in his right senses would declare all-out-war on his children.
What our society needed in fact, then as now, was All-Out Law Enforcement; because then—and now—there was, is, breakdown of law and order in parts of our island region.
At the time, and even now, there was disrespect for human life and trashing of values essential to civilized living—especially by the barbaric Abu Sayyaf and related groups.
When banditry roams the countryside, trampling peace and order in barangays surrounding our cities, as the so-called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the New People’s Army (NPA) do practically at will—enforcing the law is what society needs.
Where tandem-riding killers attack people in urban areas, we need government to enforce the law resolutely and apprehend the malefactors.
If peace is shattered, property destroyed, livelihood disrupted, or citizens are displaced, no-nonsense law enforcement is imperative.
Not only that, we need to have loose firearms and other implements of criminal activity confiscated or decommissioned so that robbery, murder, kidnapping, massacre, or other criminality can be contained.
Persistent occurrence of criminality in the community is a disgrace to civilized society. They are acts of barbarism. They cannot, must not, be allowed to go on, not especially in Mindanao.
Let not barbarism disgrace Mindanao any more. Enough is enough. We must have Rule of Law if our civilization is to thrive, to mature, and be refined.
There must be order, peace, harmony, and cooperation—everywhere!—not just in some places. But let not hotheads or thuggish oligarchs lead the effort; enlist the level-headed but uncompromising enforcer to do it, persons with a civilizing mission.
To repeat: What our society needs is All-Out Law Enforcement, not All-Out War.
War is not an option in our multicultural society. Warring and killing is unbecoming for a community of honorable Lumads, Muslims, and Christians. We are brothers and sisters—unhappy or recalcitrant on occasion perhaps, but brothers and sisters nonetheless.
Brothers and sisters do not engage in fratricidal conflict, which is barbaric. Brothers and sisters do not point guns at each other. Brothers and sisters do not kill each other.
Brothers and sisters restrain one another from committing murder or homicide. By all means, let us differ or disagree; diversity of views and beliefs or religion, even of lifestyles, provide splendor to life and culture.
Sure, let there be arguments; it clarifies the terms of living and growing together. Agree to disagree if need be; getting along does not require uniformity of vision or perception.
But let there be no killing for whatever reason except in extreme cases or self-defense. Instead, take to mutual consideration; it is essential for reaching agreement, for forging consensus, for reconciling, for peaceable accommodation.
And let no one—of any faith, ethnicity, or ideology—demean humanity by depriving others of their rights, especially their right to live. The right to live in freedom from fear and want is the most basic of human rights.
Thus, preserving life must be our uncompromising commitment, while enriching life and living in freedom must be our goal.
If we agree on this, then there is every reason to eschew violence; to proscribe violent means for resolving disputes. Then it behooves us to keep life-destroying implements out of everyone’s reach except to those to whom we entrust the laws’ enforcement.
Finally, it’s unavoidable that All-Out Law Enforcement poses risks to a law enforcers’ life and limb. For their service to our society, let us devise more meaningful ways of recognizing, honoring, and compensating them and their families.
Upholding the law is a noble and heroic cause. Freeing society of lawbreakers, confiscating their arms, arresting them, reforming them, or throwing them to jail, are worthy tasks for which our society must be appreciative and grateful. These are the stuff of which heroism is made.
Risking life and limb to protect civilians, to secure the community, to rid it of unscrupulous characters and traitors, or to clean up the neighborhoods is real heroism—a cause worth dying for so that the Force of Law will triumph against those who impose the Law of Force.
Let’s have All-Out Law Enforcement! (Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asian Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of the Philippines; member, Phil. permanent mission to the U.N.; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)