“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”

The recommendation of the TJRC (Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission) is to create an independent national mechanism that will address the issues connected to transitional justice in Mindanao and in the Philippines. This National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission for the Bangsamoro is the mechanism that will address the four important aspects:

One, is the Historical Memory,

the issue of Impunity and Accountability,

the issue of Marginalization through Land Dispossession

and Healing and Reconciliation.

The Philippine Government, and I mean it’s decision-makers, need to be sincere and honorable in following through their commitments for Mindanao. To walk their talk. This is also true for the groups on the other side- the MNLF, MILF, and CPP-NPA. For instance, we have seen that despite ARMM in Mindanao which is the resulting system and structure that the MNLF fought for with much bloodshed and which they said is the answer to the armed struggle in the region, the story of the Moro masses has not significantly changed. How is it that ARMM provinces remain the poorest in the country? And where is that alternative system of governance that MNLF said it wanted to establish that would solve the ills in the region? The Filipino people, the Moro people included, see the same old issues re-playing itself in the ARMM system.

Peace therefore starts with having peace in one’s heart, and by having peace I mean sincerity (what is your real motivation in pushing for independence? presumably not for private interests), empathy, humility (recognition of one’s limits), and constraint of one’s baser tendencies eg. desire for limitless material wealth and beliefs of superiority be it in race or culture, morals, and socio-economic standing. For we cannot give what we, individually, don’t have.

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Pioneers in the 21st century

Displacement is one of the wicked issues affecting people and governments in the 21st century. Camps and centers are not home, merely holding areas. Eventually IDPs leaving the camps find new places to resettle in preferring urban areas for their perceived wealth of opportunities. For the urban planning community, this implies the need for new strategies in designing inclusive settlement areas.

The Filipino people’s back subject

I don’t know why, in the dailies and broadcast media, people feel the need to explain their positions post-declaration. Martial law is martial law. It’s the most unfortunate thing to happen to a nation and country in the 21st century. For 21st century citizens to find themselves in such a state means only one thing- they have become degenerates, moving backward to the point in civilization where they need to be martialed forward. You know, like Brad Pitt’s hapless character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Didn’t the President repeatedly warned, “don’t force my hand”? As it is, his hand has been forced, apparently, not by a freak accident of gravity but by…terrorists? Perhaps. But more significantly by the Filipino people. If we the people faithfully fulfilled our part in governance – you know, government of the people, by the people, and for the people – we shouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. We did this to ourselves, the nation. The finger we’re pointing at others should be directed at ourselves, each and every Filipino, the haves and have-not alike.

In my other blog, in a post showing early morning beachgoers doing the rounds on a banana boat I wrote that “resilience” cannot all be laughter and smiles but that real resilience is about sacrificing now in order to enjoy freedoms afterward, maybe not in our lifetime but at least in our children’s and their children’s. Such is the level of maturity that Filipinos in the exercise of their responsibilities as citizens need or should want to attain.

The “siege” in Marawi City is the story of Mindanao, in a capsule. If Mindanao is like the abandoned buildings in the City, it is like that sorry-looking storied building riddled with bullets, the ground a playground of forces that seem to have the supernatural ability to switch places sending the poor residents scampering confused into rat holes. While all that is going on, the rest of us, onlookers from afar, are on banana boats doing our own thing, pa-comment comment (on social media, readily accessible as apps on our touchscreens) kapag may time.

Catholics, who comprise the majority of the population, have all sorts of devotions, novenas, etc. but in what ways are we positively changed by such? Has our knee-jerk recourse to prayer in fact just an avoidance of what we know we could or should do, right here, right now (versus “waiting” for God to send his angels to act)? Did Catholics or Christians in Mindanao have to wait for third-parties ie. NGOs to facilitate understanding and peace with Muslims? What is keeping someone, for instance, from baking a freaking pie, stepping outside your goddamned door and walk across your stupid lawn to knock on your neighbor Muslim’s house, and in utmost sincerity, offer the pie? (I cite this example of pie-giving because I have done it, when I was in grade school abroad. I baked some sconces (inspired by Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree) and went and gave some to our Muslim neighbors. They were delighted with the bread. That began exchanges of that sort on occasions between our families. It only takes a step, a gesture from either side, you know, like how lovers become; though boldness is needed to be able to make that step or gesture. And what’s the worst that could happen? Pie on your face? Well at least it isn’t acid. And at least it’s not you throwing out the pie.) Fear that a thousand cannons will be let loose on you? Let us honestly examine ourselves. Maybe it’s not fear at all. Maybe it’s pride masking as fear. If then, woe to us Filipinos especially Catholics. We have imprisoned ourselves in our misplaced pride and snobbish prejudice all these regrettable years!

Further, ML in Mindanao revealed the general state of community among Filipinos, and that is, wala na talagang paki sa kapwa Pilipino o sa kapwa Pilipino na tiga ibang rehiyon (there’s now a lack of solidarity and empathy for fellow Filipinos or Filipinos in the other regions) such that in the first few days after the declaration there was no collective action from the two islands, not even from Congress, to, you know, dedicate a moment of silent in support of people in Mindanao especially Marawi City residents. Wala man lang from broadcast media that thought of pausing their tele-seryes and katuwaan on lunch time variety shows to broadcast a word of support to people in Mindanao. Nada.

What would it take for us to learn the lesson of our history? True people power is commitment to the daily grind of stepping outside private interests (even outside security of our gates) onto engaging without discrimination with fellow citizens and those who are governing. People power is less about yak-ity-yak-yak in the streets and more about rolling up our sleeves, sweating it out under sun and rain season after season, and actually making good government happen. Only then shall we know and deserve peace, freedom, development, all the good things that are the inevitable fruits of a people’s good and hard work.

Another preventable tragedy

As the nation approaches Labor Day on Friday, it finds itself again contending with a Filipino OFW who has been sentenced to die by firing squad for transporting drugs.  Note that this again involves a Filipina (versus the number of similar cases involving Filipino men abroad).  Doesn’t this say something about the extent that Filipino women go to in order to feed their families back home? the despair for income that Filipino women struggle with in order to send money for everybody at home? the sort of justice that Filipino women of different socio-economic status are dealt with?  Think Janet Napoles of the PDAF Scam who continues to be in relative comfort.

In this light, the protests and vigil that the Filipino community organized for Veloso should not have been against the Indonesian Government (which is only doing it’s job, an ethically difficult one– contemplating between justice and mercy) but more for institutions and decision-makers back home, that they strive to walk the incorruptible path, support quality public education of CYP and adults, and facilitate for a more inclusive economic growth and balanced regional development (because Metro Manila is not the entire Philippines).  The tragic end of Veloso is not her fault alone.