Battle of minds and hearts

“Build, build, build” is a resoundingly astute choice, declared henceforth to be the flagship program of the administration. Its results will be very concrete (perfect pun), very visible, very tangible. People will see and use bridges, roads, skyways, railways — very welcome in these contentious times because, apart from the public needing it badly, infrastructure is not controversial. Who will contest a building boom and the great number of jobs it will generate?

Would that we could “solve” our other problems as “easily.” Three unyielding problems immediately come to mind: the drug problem, the Marawi deadlock (or victory, depending on who says it), and the Left and the NPA (New People’s Army). Wouldn’t we like their resolutions to be as attainable, visible, and final as the triumph of an aggressive push for infrastructure?


So far, what strategies have been taken? For the drug problem, “kill” (rehab was an afterthought). For Marawi, latest site of the Moro-Islamic problem, military blitz and martial law. For the Left, after a failed stab at peace negotiations, will it be all-out war? How simplistic to say, “…[A]fter Marawi, we will train our eyes on the NPA … next,” like a neat 1-2-3 (Inquirer, 7/26/17).

So, is a conclusive end, as in “victory” or “conquest,” in sight? Maybe not. Why not? Let me take off from a statement in a perceptive column by Antonio Montalvan (Opinion, 7/24/17): “One of the foremost experts on the Moro rebellion, Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI, has confirmed that the Islamic State is merely an idea. Ergo, if we kill all in the Maute group, will the idea be killed as well?”


Do ideas ever die? In fact, some ideas grow into full-blown ideologies which spread and ignite, given the circumstances. And when a charismatic leader steps in, the “idea” catches fire.

Jesus Christ brought a new “idea” that ran counter to that of His time’s religious establishment. As a consequence, the religious hierarchy relentlessly hounded Him to death. Christianity has been unstoppable since then.

What are the ideas behind our problems? Behind EJK (extrajudicial killing) is the preservation of life, inalienable and sacred. (It is deeply disturbing that the value of life now seems to be supplanted by its “cheapness”—or how explain the seeming acceptance of EJK?). Behind the Moro-Islamic problem is age-old neglect and the desire for self-determination and self-governance that have broken out in confusing configurations globally. Behind the Leftist movement is the scandalous disparity and divide between the poor and the rich, now becoming a chasm. “The world’s 8 richest men are now as wealthy as half of the world’s population” (Fortune, 1/16/17).

Historically, these issues, especially the last two, have lingered in our country for the longest time: the Moro-Islamic problem, since the occupations of Spain and the United States; the Left, more than 70 years now; the drug problem, long enough to be targeted as public enemy No. 1. By their very nature, such issues move continually, undergoing changes along the way, gathering and shedding layers of influence.

Not seldom, the original pristine ideas mutate and become vastly complicated or obscured with the penetration, for good or evil, of kindred ideas, ideologies, agendas; Christianity is not exempt. But somehow, the core ideas manage to remain. They decline; they rise to persistently frustrate and resist attempts to “kill” them.

Ideas cannot be wiped out by decimation. Kill one wave of supporters and another will rise in perhaps another mold. At the root such battles constitute a battle of minds and hearts, with some, as in our own Marawi, turning to a heartbreaking battle of bullets and bombs.

How then do we face our complex challenges? We have to add other kinds of engagement and expertise, seldom short-term but long-term—slow, difficult, tentative. Our country’s condition cries out for education, rehabilitation, dialogue, diplomacy, negotiation, and ecumenical movements, on several fronts, with huge doses of empathy, understanding, patience, and inclusiveness.


Are there other avenues out there? All are welcome, for the day is late and the nights are daunting.

* * *

Asuncion David Maramba is a retired professor, book editor and occasional journalist.

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TAGS: Asuncion David Maramba, CPP, infrastructure, Inquirer Commentary, NDFP, NPA, Philippine peace talks, war on drugs, war on poverty Marawi siege
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