DUMAGUETE CITY (MindaNews/03 March) — Thank God for soul sisters. They know when your heart is breaking.
I’m here in Dumaguete, ostensibly to speak at a multidisciplinary interfaith forum in Silliman University, where I suspect I’ll get some talk time on witnessing recent heartbreaking events in Central Mindanao. Soul sister Margie Alvarez knows when I really need to talk. This time, she wants me to talk to so many more, perhaps on the notion that what I have to say is something other academics should hear.
It’s been three years since I ran to Dumaguete and its delightful boutiques, charming restaurants, and historic seaside boulevard. That time I was here was when I needed to realign my chakra after the October 18, 2011 Albarka pintakasi that killed 19 soldiers and wounded 15 more. Days after my second round of debriefing with the survivors of that rout found me staring for hours out to sea trying to make out Siquijor in the distance.
Margie, unobtrusive soul that she is, would pick me up for coffee or dinner. Quietly and quickly, she put together a forum of graduate students and faculty to whom I could present my research on Mindanao disasters.
Yep, no excessive moping allowed. Walk it off. Gather your thoughts, temper your rage and grief, make peace with your God. The world keeps turning. There’s work yet to be done.
Weeks after Mamasapano, here I am staring at the breakers as the ocean seeks to batter the seawall. Maybe if I can tune in to the rhythm, I can find be at peace with the world.
Ok, so I was mad the last time I wrote on this column. You’d be mad, too, if you were some place where you could get injured – maybe killed – should the irrational throw a temper tantrum just because a numbskull goaded him just when he shouldn’t. How exactly, pray tell, did the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff expect the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to react to his declaration of war? Did he expect them to cower and run for cover?
Forgive me for assuming just them that the AFP would adhere to some measure of people-centered human security approach. As one of the convenors of Bantay Bayanihan – Davao, I have come to expect that the welfare of civilians is held as the paramount consideration in AFP decisions. He could at least have given people time to get out of the way. (Ah, but maybe that would give away his element of surprise? God forbid.)
So it pains me to hear the hawks’ defense of Catapang’s hasty declaration, justifying it to be the right response to the terrorism. They tag the BIFF terrorists, and maybe rightly so. But labels can change when it is politically expedient. They used to tag some groups terrorists, too.
It pains me to hear the hawks playing down the impact of this running war on the internal displacement in Central Mindanao, reasoning that such is an acceptable collateral damage to the rightness of going after the “terrorists”. It’s like they are so confident they can actually neutralize the BIFF even as the latter switches to the guerilla tactics of hit-and-run.
The last I heard from these loudmouths, they also promised to render the communist insurgency irrelevant. Almost fifty years later, they’re still at it.
It pains me to hear these hawks saying we should not care about the fate of the IDPs because they are the family members of the “terrorists”. Like, they deserve to be displaced and terrorized because of the accident of them being born to their families. Like it were a matter of choice.
(We don’t blame your mother for birthing you, hawk. She must have made you with love. How you turned out today is your doing.)
The hawks also say that we – I – should not be feeding the IDPs because food donations end up in the hands of the “terrorists”. Like it were a linear thing. It’s like accusing me of feeding terrorists. I would not be surprised if this all-or-nothing thinking will have me pegged any day soon as enemy of the state for worrying about the women, the children, the elderly, and yes – the Muslim males aged 18 to 40 who are in exile from their homes courtesy of the all-out defensive. Check them out, hawk, if you dare. The demographics is represented in the evacuation centers for the first time in years.
If the hawks had their way, they would again institute a food blockade to these evacuation centers, like they did in 2003. Where, pray tell, is the adherence to human rights and the international humanitarian law here when you can consign children and infants to go hungry in order to dry up that support to your enemy?
Well, let me tell you, hawk, that the villages of Central Mindanao had changed somewhat since you were last here. The troops down here recognize this change, even as you can’t from where you are. That is to remind you that your assumptions of the ground are outdated.
It would do us all a world of good if you stop remaking your war. It’s all in your mind, hawk. The way you try to make the pieces fit tells me you’re stuck in 2003. There’s no shame in seeking professional help. As it is, hawk, you are a danger to yourself and to others.
The year is 2015. Shift paradigm, hawk. Think IPSP and the primacy of the peace process. (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan’s column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan chairs the Department of Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University. You may send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. “Send at the risk of a reply,” she says.)