Monday, August 11, 2008

Basket Case Of The Philippines

Rocked by decades of war, Mindanao still seeks the elusive dream of peace. considered the bread basket of the the Philippines, Mindanao is more like a basket case. The way I see it, the continuing unrest is no longer about ideology or ancestral land. It is all about who gets what. Mindanao is a mishmash of cultures. Rule of law is virtually nonexistent with security forces unable to disarm even the ordinary resident.

The region is ruled by powerful clans, warlords and rebels hiding behind the cloak of independence. What is at stake is keeping the status quo. The more autonomy the region gets, the more those in power can impose their will on the ordinary Mindanaoan. Those with private armies terrorize the people into submission while their politicians sell their loyalties to the highest bidder.

Progress in Mindanao will never come unless the people are given a voice. As of late, people are beginning to realize that they have rights and this threatens to destroy the prevailing system. It is no wonder why groups are out to sabotage the ARMM elections. The ruling class stands to lose the most. This is the reason why they have turned to politics to secure their hold to power. Rebels on the other hand is viewed with skepticism as former rebels who turned to politics enriched themselves than address the plight of the people.

Even Muslims do not trust the MILF or the defunct MNLF. The government continues to dialogue with the MILF despite the group's obvious fragmentation. Splinter groups continue to defy instructions from their leaders. It could also be that the MILF leadership is actually supporting these groups. Their continuing occupation of several towns could be a protracted action directed at gaining more ground that could give them a wider area of control should the creation of a Bangsamoro push through.

Elections also do not guarantee any form of change as long as genuine representation is achieved. With the kind of mindset Mindanao politicians have, the people of Mindanao are the biggest losers. Progress comes in trickles leaving the people salivating at the prospect of progress. At the end of the day, Mindanaons remain voiceless as powerful clans and warlords will never relinquish the power they now possess.

Is Mindanao hopeless? NO! Change is up to the people, they are the true stakeholders. The rebels and the ruling clans are the biggest obstacles in Mindanao's quest for peace and progress. But of course, everything will depend on how Malacañang will act. With Gloria at the helm, I doubt if change or peace will ever come to Mindanao. Mindanao will never be our country's bread basket with the kind of people sitting in the peace panel now. Both groups are not looking after the people's welfare but their own.