PEACETALK: A letter to Ramon Tulfo

Mary Ann Arnado/MPC

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 August) — Dear Mr. Tulfo,

Salaam to you in this season of Ramadhan!

This is in response to your column dated August 8, 2011 entitled “Japan Talks Will not End War in the South”.

As a Mindanaoan and a long time worker in peacebuilding and inter-religious dialogue, I strongly disagree with your statement that “Religious and cultural differences, not political, are the root cause of the war in the South.”  I am surprised that with the fast pacing progress of Muslim-Christian dialogues especially among the grassroots in Mindanao, we still have people like you who want to paint the conflict in Mindanao as a religious one.   That is remnant of the 1970 circa which has been used and exploited during the dark years of Martial law. Many politicians and corporations benefited from this so-called “religious war and communal violence” depicted during the 70’s.  That dirty, violent, “divide and rule” apparatus will no longer work for us Muslims, Christians and Lumads in Mindanao.

You criticized PNOY for not knowing history but with this religious conflict that you are desperately “fanning,” it is you who have actually exposed your own ignorance of history in Mindanao.  Mas makaulaw kay taga Mindanao pa man unta ka!

If you wish, I can accompany you to communities of Muslims and Christians in the conflict-affected areas and there you will see that both of them are victims of the armed conflict.  Both Muslim and Christian share the horrors of the war, they both lost their loved ones and family members and both are helping each other overcome the conflict through dialogue and solidarity.  Please come and visit these communities so that you can see for yourself that Muslims and Christians are not out to kill each other.  Even the Ilagas have already retired and are not willing to be used again for selfish, political and economic motives.

May I also take exception to your comment that “Moros love to fight.”   That is a very sweeping generalization which reveals your own personal bias against these people.   I have seen from my own eyes how Moro communities were bombed, burned and looted by soldiers.  Just two weeks ago, a civilian baker from Basilan was tortured by his interrogators by pouring gasoline on his body and slowly burning him in a barbaric way.  If they have the natural predilection to violence as what you are trying to project, I wonder what these millions of Moros can actually do.  Yet, with the injustices and oppression that they are going through as a people, it is them who are still pushing for the peace process as a way to peacefully address their political aspirations.    God forbids, if it is you who will be poured gasoline and burned slowly to death, I wonder if you can still afford to ask your torturers, “Please let’s talk.”

Your kind of mindset is definitely what we need to change so that we can finally move forward in the peace process.  (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. PeaceTalk welcomes contributions from anyone who wants to say his/her piece on peace in Mindanao. Mary Ann M. Arnado is the secretary general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus)