MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/22 October) – When Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile et al cried hoarse for the government to launch an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in response to the October 18 ambush in Al-Barka, Basilan which led to the death of 19 soldiers, little did he know that he was proposing something that has failed for the last 40 years. His mind as a policymaker has remained in the Silurian stage of political evolution, oblivious to qualitative changes in how the world has been trying to address armed conflicts, in particular those of the intrastate variety.
It doesn’t need long arguments to prove that a military solution will fail as it has always failed to quash the Moro rebellion. Its failure over time is enough proof. So why yield to the heat of momentary passion and commit yet another folly in dealing with the MILF? With his past experience as defense minister I had expected Enrile to be more circumspect in his pronouncement. I may have been wrong in thinking that wisdom comes with experience – or old age.
Certain sections of the media have also fallen short of expectations and even tended to support calls for an all-out war based on how they threw questions at their sources. News reports by Manila-based journalists have been mainly superficial, suggestive of their relative ignorance of Mindanao history and the intricacies of the peace process. And, if not for the fact that Al-Barka was a real life story, such reports can be brushed off as episodes of yet another tearjerker soap opera. In fact, a TV host who interviewed on October 21 lawyer Marvic Leonen, chair of the GPH peace panel in talks with the MILF, expressed surprise to learn from him that there are existing mechanisms for the observance of the ceasefire between the two sides.
Media ignorance is just part of the problem. These past few days the media had focused on whether government should wage another war in
Mindanao without giving equal time and space to its economic and human costs. I haven’t noticed any TV network or newspaper recalling the sad
stories of massive dislocation and abuses against civilians during ousted president Joseph Estrada’s all-out war in 2000 and other military campaigns. The only images shown were those of the grieving families of the slain soldiers and an Enrile or Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, a retired general, fuming mad and calling for blood.
Yes, the nation should grieve the death of its soldiers. But the media will do a great disservice if it allows its portrayal of such grief to further inflame public passion to justify a resort to arms by the state. Fortunately, President Aquino has so far held on to the peace process despite the tragic incident in Basilan. If he gives in to the hawks that see renewed war in Mindanao as their best chance to get a star or more stars, the meaning of the death of those soldiers – the need to push the peace negotiation forward – will be lost. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])