ADVOCACY MindaNOW: Will Mindanao survive?

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 Sept) — Yes, the (Armed Forces of the Philippines) military mission in Zamboanga may be deemed accomplished.  But  is the problem really over?  I don’t think so.

To my mind, it will still take a long time to clean up the mess of the Zamboanga incident. And to be able to know how to effectively deal with   this, one must understand that the siege was not done solely to create trouble. Or to burn and bleed Zamboanga City. Or to kill.

WHY? —To the ordinary Zamboanga folks, especially the victims, it was plain terrorism. To government and those in authority it was simply lawlessness and a defiant challenge to authority and plain disruption of peace and order that must be decisively smashed. To the businessman, it was money and opportunities lost.

To President NOYNOY AQUINO, it was  something he must personally attend to with firmness.   To DILG Secretary MAR ROXAS, it was a task he had to grapple with and had to necessarily put at risk  his own political future knowing that being crisis manager was a no-win situation. ( Take it from me.  I was there before.)    To Mayor BENG CLIMACO, it was something she had to  face with the awesome mission of protecting her people and then leading Zamboanga to rise from its ashes — a baptism by fire for a new lady mayor, although with genetic strains of an illustrious and fiery uncle, former Mayor Cesar Climaco. To NUR MISUARI and USTADZ HABIER MALIK and their mujadeen forces,  it was fighting for the cause of  the Bangsamoro.

BLOOD IN THEIR HANDS —After the smoke clears, it is important to pinpoint responsibility and accountability on those who have “blood in their hands“. What caused all this? Or who or what triggered the incident? Are those responsible ready to own up for what they did or failed to do? Or will they continue to profess righteous indignation and point their dirtied fingers at others? I guess I have to leave this for others to deal with.

DIFFICULT TASK AHEAD — I would rather focus on the difficult task of  how to help Zamboanga and its people rise from the ashes. Yes, rebuilding destroyed structures and homes can be done at considerable cost and effort. Grieving for the dead and nurturing the wounded will also take some time. Returning to “normalcy” is not easy but that is something we must now work on.

To me, the most important work ahead is:  rebuilding social cohesion and healing amongst us all  Mindanawons.  This is  most difficult to do. And hard tomeasure. BUT WE MUST DO FOR MINDANAO’S SURVIVAL!

Conflicts always bring  anger, hatred, animosity, sufferings that break the social bond that tie us with  the other diverse peoples of our island region. Conflicts rip apart and rupture the social fabric.

I cannot simply  imagine the anger and the hatred that those more than 100,000 suffering  evacuees who lost their modest homes and lowly but priced belongings, are now nurturing in their hearts. Or how the one million Zamboangenos feel  whose normal lives were disrupted. Also the grief and possible thought of vengeance of those whose loved ones died or were wounded in the firefight — on both the government and the MNLF.

We must heal the social wounds inflicted. We must restore the broken relationships, and remove the animosity and the distrust that conflicts bring on peoples. WE MUST DEAL WITH AND REMOVE THE ROOT CAUSES OF THIS MALAISE.

NO RETURN TO DARK DAYS –We do not want to see Muslims and Christians being polarized again. We do not want to see civilians arming themselves and taking the law into their own hands because of the perception — and reality — that government cannot immediately protect them from similar dangers. We do not want to see “vigilante groups” sprouting and  rearing their ugly heads again. Reports of anti-Muslim armed Ilongo “ilagas” resurrecting in Central Mindanao and the return of the”Black Shirts” and “Barracudas” in Lanao  must be quelled. Zamboangenos being urged to organize and fight back and train  to fight should be nipped in the bud.   Yes, we must be prepared to defend our rights and our lives,  but do we want to return to those chaotic and dark days?

SOCIAL COHESION—Mindanao’s Muslims, non-Muslims and Indigenous People have diverse ethnic, cultural, even religious groupings. How to have social cohesion  and restore racial harmony in the midst of this diversity worsened by incidents such as this one in Zamboanga, is a big challenge.

Yes, AFP’s  military mission may be considered as “mission accomplished.”

But    government’s work  with the civilians’ cooperation to clean up this mess has just started. What we all Mindanawons will do — or fail to do — henceforth will determine whether Mindanao will survive this latest crisis. But knowing our resiliency as a people, I have no doubt, we all can 

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews.  Lawyer Jesus G. Dureza was Presidential Adviser for Mindanao for former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Gloria M. Arroyo. He was also involved in the peace negotiations in the talks with the MILF and the CPP-NPA-NDF and initiated, while Presidential Peace Adviser, the Tripartite Review of the 1996 MNLF Peace Agreement. He is currently President/Chair of the Philippine Press Institute. This piece is from his syndicated column, Advocacy MindaNOW).