CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 9 April) – As they say, hindsight is 20-20 vision. Looking back, it is clear now how myopic the central government had been in its treatment of Mindanao, failing to help its peoples build capability not only to provide for their own needs but also to expand its contribution to the national economy.
“Imperial Manila” paid little attention to the island-region’s needs in education and opportunity—to bring Mindanaons up to par with the rest of the country if not the world.
Little consideration, if any, was given to enabling them to cope with their needs, not even to empower them in their own backyard.
Appointees from Luzon and Visayas were brought in to administer Mindanao provinces. One of them was the grandfather of incumbent senator T. G. Guingona III—the late Teofisto J. Guingona Sr. from Guimaras, Iloilo.
He was appointed governor of Agusan and held other posts until he represented all of Mindanao and Sulu in the Senate. Later on his son, Teofisto “Tito” Guingona Jr., followed the same path, became senator, and served briefly as vice president.
It’s a measure of their stewardship, and of their successors, however, that to this day Mindanao is distinguished as having eight of the 10 poorest provinces in the nation—a performance that should make their progeny and dynastic heirs hang down their heads in shame and guilt.
Our island region had plenty going for it early on: vast natural resources, friendly and generous peoples, multi-cultural allure for entrepreneurs and adventurers, strategic trading position, and so on.
But the central government paid less attention to such exciting and lucrative prospects than the capitalists and economic exploiters did—seeing Mindanao’s vast plains as ideal sites for plantations, its forests as God’s gift to loggers, and its minerals in their boundless potentials.
For the politicos’ lack of foresight, the over-exploitation they fostered, and the abuses they tolerated, everyone today is paying a steep price.
When the policy of accelerating the island’s colonization was adopted (through inter-island migration from Luzon and the Visayas), no one bothered to look into its adverse effects, short or long-term.
Slowly but surely, like erosion eating up the hillsides and riverbanks, mindless exploitation ate up nature’s endowments and the livelihood afforded our people and communities.
Worse, greed and the urge to aggrandize ravished the indigenous cultures, scraping away their value systems, turning common sense and folk wisdom upside down, corrupting tradition, stultifying political development.
Naturally, from the exploited landscape and its diminished capacity to accommodate people, aggressive development, and the aggrandizing urge, there arose a tension which brought us to today’s intersection between autonomy and secession.
The big question now is: will the Bangsamoro Basic Law do better for Mindanao than what PNoy considers as the “failed experiment” of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao?
And another: where does Imperial Manila get its confidence that regional autonomy will work out fine among feudal minded Mindanaons when it can’t even demonstrate how it works on a modest scale in the lowly barangay?
Hindsight tells us that wishful thinking cannot substitute for good government or participatory governance, which must be inclusive. Negotiating with oligarchs and armed bands just isn’t good enough.
But since they’re at it already and well into what they say is the last lap, let’s wish them good luck! What choice have we got? But please, no more violence!
[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] ]