THE WORM’S EYEVIEW: It’s time for a federal system in Mindanao

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 29 Jan) – The helter-skelter way our government conducts peace-building keeps on backfiring. They seem never to learn. It reminds one of The Gang who couldn’t Shoot Straight by Jimmy Breslin about the pre-Watergate years in the U.S. capital.

The senseless carnage and massacre of the PNP elite commandos (44 dead! A day-long firefight!) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, replays a phenomenon already familiar to all: yet another flawed fabric they call a peace agreement is unraveling.

When you weave such a delicate fabric to suit the bravado and timeline of a president in far away Manila, it’s bound to happen.

P-Noy seems to believe that the many-sided issues bedeviling Mindanao can be resolved by a formula based on a swashbuckling paradigm conjured by his KKK team. Kabarkada, Kabarilan, Kaklase.


You’d think peace-building is as simple as making puree from mango or mangosteen, then feeding it to people who are kept at a distance while their fates are negotiated with a dominant armed faction. It’s more complicated and thorny than that, ladies!

First of all, it’s already obvious that the MILF isn’t all that reliable; their words can hardly be taken at face value. They make use of the BIFF as their wild card, or play them against government forces in a game of good-cop/bad-cop.

If they really cared about peace-building, of which the ceasefire is an essential condition for moving forward, why didn’t they stop the carnage at Mamasapano or at least limit its casualties? And why do they keep harboring savages like the blood-thirsty BIFF marauders and foreign terrorists like Marwan?

Now their true nature and intent are unmasked in no uncertain terms. As if Mindanaons aren’t up to their tricks!


Bottom-line: how does one build confidence and trust in people who defy law or order and place no value to life itself?

And how does one relate to people who demonstrate time and again that they’re just takers and not givers, sharers, or humane; people who won’t meet you halfway or anyway except with guns?

I’m afraid we’re now faced with a gaping wound for which there is no quick cure from anyone except if it includes everyone. Yes, everyone! Not just the talking heads and gun-wielding and IED-lobbing zombies that lurk behind a studied façade of sincerity and noble purpose.

Trust must inhere on both sides. And everyone must be in on it.


In my 75 years of Mindanao life and times, plus generations of Higaonon and Manobo forbears before me, there’s a lesson that keeps ringing in my ears when dealing with fellow Mindanaons, especially in politics: be inclusive.

This lesson hit me unforgettably during the Emmanuel Pelaez for President Campaign in 1965. In the run up to the Nacionalista Convention at Manila Hotel, we had secured virtually all the leaders of Mindanao to close ranks behind our region’s favorite son against the nomination of Ferdinand Marcos.

But some Mindanaons somehow were left out of the discussion, who then leaked vital information and strategy—which enabled the Marcos campaign to move in and buy out everyone to inundate the votes already committed to our brightest hope for the presidency.

I remember General Mamarinta Lao of Lanao telling me after that: “If you want consensus and agreement, get everyone into the room, or those outside will sabotage things by lobbing a grenade to get attention and be heard.”

Well, we’re certainly hearing plenty from outside the peace-making tents, big bangs at that, and I bet there’ll be more to come!

[Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is chairman/convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. and author of books on governance. [email protected]]