The Mindanao Business Convention was held in Dipolog City from Sept.
2-4, sponsored by the Mindanao Chapter of the Philippine Chamber of
Commerce and Industry. The theme of the annual Convention was
“Winning the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Gaining
the Global Market”.
It was my privilege to be a reactor on the subject/topic of peace
initiatives. The salient points of my discussion are shared below.
M.A.P. Insights — Jose Rene C. Gayo: “Well-planned cities to help drive
innovation, curb poverty”
M.A.P. Insights — Chit U. Juan: “Diverse boards make profitable companies”
M.A.P. Insights — Rolando T. Dy: “What to expect from the 2015-2016
M.A.P. Insights — Francisco F. Del Rosario, Jr.: “How Human Resources can
help make employees happy, committed, and relevant”
M.A.P. Insights — Jose Rene C. Gayo: “CUTTING EDGE DEGREE PROGRAM
SHOWS ENTREPRENEURSHIP CAN BE TAUGHT”
In order for the region to fully partake of the opportunities and prospects of the ASEAN
integration, the threats affecting the security of Mindanao must be reduced and
neutralized. These threats include the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro
National Liberation Front (MNLF), Abu Sayyaf group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom
Fighters, local communist movement, political warlords, and other armed elements
operating in Mindanao. These threat groups are the major stumbling blocks to progress
and the reason why Mindanao has lagged behind in economic growth for decades.
The path to peace has been full of repetitions and reiterations, with the same effect.
Peace initiatives have been concluded with the MNLF in the past. Massive military
operations have been conducted against these enemies of the state, but peace has
always been elusive. The present government has shifted its peace strategy by focusing
on the MILF. After a long and arduous process, we see no relief in sight and this fate
might just extend to the next administration.
I posited the following questions to the participants for their appreciation and perusal:
• Can the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) provide the other threat groups
outside the MILF with equitable share of resources, opportunities and benefits? The
allocation of financial resources is too lopsided and biased in favor of the MILF. Even the
residual benefits as a result of spillover in development will be minimal or negligible in
other areas. As in any power politics, the MILF will have the capability to consolidate
their influence, a possibility that may generate further disunity and discord among the
other occupants of Mindanao.
• Can the BBL substantially reduce loose firearms and other war materials that are in
the hands of the MILF and other armed groups? Their sincerity is doubtful. Compliance
to disarmament will just be for show. They will conserve all available wherewithal to
perpetuate their political objectives. Substantial financial interest needs a strong
political base to conserve and perpetuate it. Other threat groups will likewise retain all
available firearms as a counter to and protection against the power of the MILF.
• Will these armed groups renounce violence without any condition? If your core
competence has been founded on threat, intimidation, and force, that culture and mind-
set cannot be reversed overnight or dismantled without resistance. Denying them their
firearms is like taking away their life-support system, stripping them of both identity
and purpose. If you have always fought and questioned the government and its
authority, the tendency to rebel is ingrained deep into one’s psyche.
• Will the passage of the BBL be able to neutralize the rise of global terror? The MILF
has always depended on external support from foreign terrorist groups to perpetuate its
existence. This will continue. Middle Eastern countries have been traditional allies and
supporters of international Islamic terrorism. How does one break and sever ties to that
source of terrorist financing?
• Is the BBL being used as a political leverage to further political objectives at the
expense of the people? The answer is very obvious. The rise of political warlordism was
due to the government’s bias towards political leaders that could deliver largesse, like
electoral votes and political patronage. Government officials likewise provided and
made available, firearms, and even government contracts to some favored supporters.
With the coming elections next year, there is a pronounced and explicit agenda in
passing and rushing the BBL.
• Will the next administration respect and implement the provision of a BBL, if not
passed by the present dispensation? Any answer is speculation at best. The result and
effect of its implementation will rest solely on the next government. The arduous and
long process of the BBL has not generated the expected dividends. If despite the efforts
and discussions it is relegated to the dust bin of history, this may unleash a backlash on
the situation in Mindanao, and therefore the rest of the country.
CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
The development and aggravation of conflict follows a cycle of violence as propounded
by Paul Rogers and Scilla Elworthy in “The ‘War On Terrorism.’” Violence gives rise to
atrocities. Atrocities engender shock, terror, fear, pair, grief and anger. When anger
occurs and escalates, intervention is needed to prevent and mitigate conflict. If not
done, the cycle stays alive, feeding on the negative energy arising from violence and
conflict. It is this paradigm that has shaped the conflict in Mindanao. It is this paradigm
that explains why not much progress has been achieved over the decades. To our
minds, this is because the instruments that were applied in the intervention stage were
not sufficient. Many attempts to implement a peace agreement were adopted as the
ultimate intervention process, in the hope that this would give rise to the following
actions: peace-keeping, protection, arms export control, gun collection rule of law, free
elections, and governance. This should be the focus of any peace agreement: to
strengthen the intervention mechanism/s so that conditions can progress up to the level
of good governance.
SIMPLE DOUBLE ACTION
We have concentrated on the policy dimension of the peace process. Hence, we have
relegated the immediate and doable actions that can insure a crisis stabilization and a
possible turnaround, so that if the BBL or other peace agreements are eventually
approved, its implementation will be marked by smooth transition and rapid conclusion.
In the meantime, what can we do? We cannot procrastinate and wait, the crisis is
escalating, the citizens are suffering.
How can we reduce the number of firearms? If we can reduce it by at least 20% or
30%, there will be a considerable drop in violence, because violence is directly
proportional to the number of firearms. How can we deny the entry of firearms and
other war materials with such a porous coastline? Even more important, how do we
deny the entry of foreign financial support which can easily be channeled through
normal banking processes?
Building interfaith bridges through dialogue with government and church-related
initiatives is a positive approach. Interfaith dialogue can improve relations and
encourage openness among people of varied cultures. It can enhance understanding of
conflicts and engender cooperation among stakeholders.
A QUESTION OF LEADERSHIP
Actual crisis and extreme emergencies require tough decisions and, if need be, the
application of authoritative but benevolent leadership. All the challenges that spawned
from peace initiatives may not have met the required leadership. It was always
tempered and tainted with political considerations at the expense of objectivity and
efficiency. It is characterized by credit-grabbing, passing the blame, cowardice, and
lack of courage to take full responsibility.
What can ordinary, peace-loving citizens do? As businessmen and industrialists and
entrepreneurs, take the challenge, take an active role. Extend to your local leaders and
government officials your managerial and leadership qualities, entrepreneurial acumen
and competitive spirit. Manifest your unity and devote yourself to preparing Mindanao
for the avalanche of opportunities and hurdles that will definitely be part of ASEAN
integration in 2016.
Jaime S. de los Santos is the 42nd Commanding General of the Philippine Army, the 1st
Force Commander of the UN Peacekeeping Force in East Timor, and the Chair Emeritus
of the UP Alumni Association.