MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/27 October) – Political leaders in Manila who are calling for an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front may not have anticipated the fallout that can result from their lust for vindictive justice for the soldiers killed in recent clashes in Western Mindanao. Like ousted president Joseph Estrada, who always brags he scored a big one against the MILF in 2000, they still think the state’s superior firepower is the ultimate solution to the Moro rebellion. They forgot that Estrada simply overran camps and the rebel group has remained intact. For the past 40 years, this has always been the case. And after all these years, the likes of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile have never learned their lesson.
Aside from its time-tested futility, an all-out war would take a toll not only on the economy but also on the country’s civil institutions by giving the military establishment a greater say in policymaking. That’s beside the fact that it would rekindle ethnic tensions and open wider existing social divides, in the process eroding the gains achieved in building or restoring trust among Mindanao’s culturally diverse peoples and communities. The net result of the war effort, regardless of the outcome in the field, would subsequently weaken the Aquino administration.
Enrile and company may have overlooked that the economic and social implications of another all-out war are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg that government will have to face. An all-out war against the MILF, which means sending more troops to Western and South-Central Mindanao, will force the military to lessen deployment in areas affected by the communist insurgency. This is a tactical gamble particularly in Mindanao where the New People’s Army has shown signs of resurgence.
More importantly, going to war when public funds are barely enough for basic social services – not to say splurged on inanities like the conditional cash transfer program – is downright atrocious and immoral. It means that more students will be forced to hold classes under shades of trees because the money for the building of classrooms has been added to the war chest. It means that more poor patients in public hospitals will suffer the severe lack of free medicines. There’s no way for government to pamper the military and effectively respond to these needs at the same time.
In addition, the war will worsen poverty in would-be affected areas with the expected massive displacement of people from their farms, their only source of food and income. What do you call a government that deprives its citizens the right to eke a living through the only means they know and then brags about giving them noodles and sardines in evacuation centers? These things however may never get the attention of war-crazed reporters and editors who, sadly, are only interested in battlefield statistics.
But who in government cares about the human cost of an all-out war? Not the bloodthirsty high officials in Manila, not the parachuting journalists from Manila, not the generals who issue orders from a safe distance.
The lesson of Al-Barka is clear: It’s not always the case that soldiers die so that others may live in peace. Sometimes they die to give others an excuse to prolong [the] war. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at email@example.com)