All-out war leading Mindanao to hell, not peace
Life hasn’t been the same since Jan. 25, 2015, the day 44 commandos of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police, 18 combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and five civilians died in the Mamasapano encounter—not to mention the resultant socioeconomic damage inflicted on people and communities long suffering from government neglect.
Mamasapano is a place we now know, not for its tourism potentials but for the bloody and deadly operation to eliminate a US-tagged terrorist by the name of Marwan. Nearly two months after the incident, the families of the fallen and the public are still seeking the truth and accountability.
Since the Mamasapano incident, in a desperate move to save face, the government has been running after Moro rebels, but driving in the process 72,500 civilians into evacuation centers (“War evacuation cost now P2M a day,” Across the Nation, 3/12/15). “It’s like hell here and the children suffer. We want to go back to our house but we have no clearance from local officials” (“War victims assail ‘hell’ in evacuation,” Across the Nation, 3/11/15).
The people are, once again, in an agonizing and unbearable situation; the botched operation and continued “peace approach” of government have led to an all-out war. And evacuation centers, where a scant supply of noodles, rice and sardines replaces the usual diet of root crops and vegetables, symbolize the war’s disastrous impact on innocent lives. Not learning from the Mamasapano incident, the government is now waging a war that sacrifices people, the most affected of whom are the children, the elderly and the women.
Unlike natural calamities which are beyond human control, man-made disasters like war can be stopped. While the government is running after rebels and terrorists, it would do better by addressing as a priority the root causes of rebellion.
A military approach is not enough to successfully achieve peace; it will only intensify the state of “unpeace” and the violations of human rights. The poor ones will be further impoverished, as they are “hamletted” in evacuation centers that deny them economic and social activities and render them unproductive. This state-instigated war interrupts the schooling of the young, increases the incidence of diseases and illnesses, escalates psycho-social trauma, dislocates communities and disrupts the normal activities of the people. As most evacuees have been wallowing in poverty even before evacuation, they become further exposed to vulnerabilities.
The government must rethink its tactics. The P1.9 million spent every day for food supply in the evacuation centers, combined with the war budget, can go a long way in implementing economic and social reforms to make life better in the region. Instead, this government is creating hell for the poor and vulnerable.
—NORMA P. DOLLAGA,
Para sa Bayan
(Kasimbayan), [email protected]
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