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Peace is the answer

It has become a three-ring circus, these investigations of the Mamasapano Misencounter. To shift the attention to what are at least equally important matters, I dust off the Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR) 2005, titled “Peace, Human Security and Human Development in the Philippines,” and recommend that it be read by all concerned Filipinos, but most especially by our legislators, who seem to have taken their eyes off the ball, diverted by the thrill of the said three-ring circus. What it says still resonates.

Even just the cover of PHDR 2005 is a sharp reminder to us: “It is a shadow play of fingers mimicking the images of guns. But the shadows also represent the finger-pointing among members of society based on prejudice, ignorance, and misrepresentation that often give rise to violence and armed conflict.” Isn’t that what we are being treated to right now?

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PHDR 2005 proceeds to tell us what armed conflict in the Philippines has cost us, and distinguishes between the NPA (New People’s Army) conflict and the Moro conflict. It provides a matrix of these costs, divided vertically into nonmonetary and economic costs, and horizontally into direct costs, implicit costs and spillover costs.

For example, between 1970 and 1996, more than 100,000 were killed due to the Moro conflict, of whom 20 percent were noncombatants (this estimate is by Gen. E. Ermita). In 1969-1976, during the fiercest fighting between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front, 60,000 were estimated killed, 54,000 wounded and 350,000 displaced.

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PHDR 2005 continues: From the 1970s, as many as two million people may have experienced dislocation due to the Moro conflict. On a flow basis, around 1.4 million were displaced in 2000-2004. The largest movements in internally displaced persons occurred when the government launched major offensives. (This occurred during both the Estrada and the Arroyo regimes, although the largest one occurred during the Marcos years.—SCM) Furthermore, the toll among evacuees even in the relative “safety” of evacuation centers—disease, lack of food—cannot be ignored. Anywhere from one-fifth to one-third of major Moro ethnic groups now live in areas outside their ancestral homeland, some driven to virtual ghettoes where they are reduced to penury, and face discrimination and prejudice by the majority.

And that’s “just” the nonmonetary costs. Now for the economic costs of the Moro conflict. Estimates of the economic cost, including foregone investment (in both the region and the country) amounted to larger than P10 billion annually in 1975-2002 (total: P370 billion). A better way of looking at it: These costs amounted to approximately 2.5 percent of the regional GDP of central and southwestern Mindanao, or about 0.5 percent of national GDP (which, at current prices, would mean roughly P60 billion) annually. If it is any comfort, the economic costs of conflict in other countries average about 11.3 percent of GDP per year (circa 2005).

See what continued conflict would mean in terms of lives lost and displaced, and economic costs? National Economic and Development Authority Director General Arsy Balisacan, who was president of the Philippine Human Development Network at the time, wrote in his foreword to PHDR 2005: “…[T]he Moro conflict has been viewed as an exclusively

‘Mindanao issue’ but should be a pressing question of human development and human security that touches all Filipinos.” In other words, we are all affected.

So let us not get distracted from the ultimate objective: peace. And if anyone says we have to make war to gain peace, my reply is that we tried that, too (with our major counteroffensives by Marcos and Estrada). It got us nowhere, at the tremendous costs we outlined above.

And we are taking out our anger on the wrong people, methinks. Because since 2010 or 2011 there has been not one encounter between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. And the painful fact is that this Mamasapano Misencounter, may I venture to say, was not started by the MILF either. Even the MILF’s reluctance to appear before the legislature was painted in the most uncomplimentary terms, as were most of its other statements. Painful. What is wrong with its wanting to finish its investigation so that it would have its facts straight before facing the Senate? Or what is wrong with saying that it remains a revolutionary organization until the peace agreement is implemented, at which event it would transform into a social one? Is that not what anyone would do?

PHDR 2005 also puts some perspective on one of the most gruesome aspects of the Mamasapano Misencounter: the alleged killing of wounded police commandos by head shots at close range (ascribed, without any basis, to the MILF), and the alleged mutilation of the dead. These have enraged the public, and rightly so. These should be condemned, and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.

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But it should be remembered that similar atrocities have been committed against our Muslim brothers—the Jabidah massacre (anywhere from 28 to 64 Muslims killed by their Christian officers of the Philippine Army, none of whom was punished), the Ilaga’s (Christian vigilantes’) torture, mutilation and massacre of 70 people who were at a mosque, the shooting of a young evacuee couple (husband in the head, seven-months-pregnant wife in the belly). All equally enraging.

The moral of the story is the same. Conflict creates its atrocities. Peace heals. Human security is the external condition for human development. Peace is the answer.

Let’s keep to our quest for peace. Pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Now.

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TAGS: column, Mamasapano incident, Mindanao, peace process, Solita Collas-Monsod
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