1. This is Guernica, my favorite painting of Pablo Picasso. Guernica is one of the most influential and powerful anti-war paintings ever created; a cacophony of sights that invoked the almost inhuman bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the height of the Spanish Civil War.

    In Basque culture the town of Guernica is one of the central cultural and historical centers. While it was the center of Basque culture it was far from a key military target. Instead it was a symbol of resistance; the only military installation was on the outskirts of the town. The only reason, the sole reason, for bombing Guernica was to intimidate the Basques; to cut out their heart in other words. It was shock, awe, and destroy. The bombing of Guernica was militarily meaningless except as a form of intimidation, a warning to all who dare stand up against the aspirations of Generalissimo Franco.

    Rudolf Anheim wrote: "The women and children make Guernica the image of innocent, defenseless humanity victimized. Also, women and children have often been presented by Picasso as the very perfection of mankind. An assault on women and children is, in Picasso’s view, directed at the core of mankind."

    While George Steer, a journalist, described the devastation:Guernica, the most ancient town of the Basques and the centre of their cultural tradition, was completely destroyed yesterday afternoon by insurgent air raiders. The bombardment of this open town far behind the lines occupied precisely three hours and a quarter, during which a powerful fleet of aeroplanes consisting of three types of German types, Junkers and Heinkel bombers, did not cease unloading on the town bombs weighing from 1,000 lbs. downwards and, it is calculated, more than 3,000 two-pounder aluminium incendiary projectiles. The fighters, meanwhile, plunged low from above the centre of the town to machinegun those of the civilian population who had taken refuge in the fields.”

    Picasso was a Basque, at least he was on his mother’s side. So while he had been commissioned by the Spanish government to create a mural, instead he created the single most significant anti-war piece of his generation. A testament to the horror and devastation wrought by indiscriminate warmongering.

    Picasso was a man of infinite creative vision. But what makes an artist endure is the timelessness of his work. Today, Guernica remains as potent as it was in 1937. Not only worldwide, but here today, right now in the Philippines we have elements in our government and civil society advocating for Filipinos to wage war on Filipinos. For no other reason other than it is the simplest solution to a complex problem. A shortsighted solution that will do nothing more than breed further anger, fuel more anti-Filipino sentiments, and ultimately result in further damaging the fabric of our nationhood.

    Women and children will bear the brunt of such rash action, they always do. It is the civilians, the innocents and the powerless, that testify to the utter brutality of ‘all out’ war. In the act of trying to carve out a life of some means, they inevitably end up the cannon fodder for warmongers. Families torn apart, children driven by ‘revenge’ and hopelessness into insurgent groups, only then to end up bullet riddled fertilizer in some distant jungle.

    Today is Pablo Picasso’s birthday. In 1937 the destruction of Guernica in his homeland drove him to craft one of the world’s most powerful paintings. He was railing against the horrors of war; he was drawing attention to the incalculable damage done. Amidst all the beauty he created, he also left a challenging and timeless warning.

    The impact of any war is writ large in Guernica.

     
  2. At least that’s the most common scenario. A ceasefire has been in place for years – peace talks first began between the two parties over a decade ago – but there have been sporadic breaks and exchanges of gunfire when frustrations ran higher than the desire to put down their weapons. 

    It’s almost become a derogatory term. 

    "As if it’s our fault! Don’t they see we had no choice?" Bitun told us in a recent interview,  her own frustration and sadness clearly evident in her voice. 

    Bakwits like Bitun have been running so long that in many areas it is perceived they stay mobile on purpose. That they don’t look for permanent resettlements so they can keep living on hand-outs from the government and aid agencies. It is much easier after all, many believe, to get a free meal than to return to the poverty that has long kept these transients in chains. 

    "This is not the life I wanted for my children …"

    From Bitun, the Bakwin by Marga Ortigas for Al Jazeera.

     

  3. "

    This display of great leadership may not be foremost in the mind of President Benigno Aquino III when he met Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Murad Ibrahim in a Tokyo hotel a few days back to talk peace and about the integration of the MILF into the mainstream of Philippine society.

    But the act was about how great leadership should be: bypassing fake and irrelevant protocols to further the most humane act a leader can ever take – integrate those outside into the mainstream. In the meeting with the MILF, there was a precious collateral, the search for lasting peace in troubled Mindanao.

    I wrote this piece to express, from the realm of the personal, my support for the President’s talks with the MILF. And the support of the Estehanons, my constituency, to Mr. Aquino’s peace initiatives.

    May the talks prosper and yield fruit. May the God of peace help the President integrate the MILF into the mainstream. May there be lasting peace in troubled Mindanao.

    And, may the critics of the President see the light of day and allow him to fulfill his mission of peace without bother.

    The criticisms are the boilerplate thing: the trip was made in secret, the MILF leader was accorded a status he did not deserve, and that the talks were not preceded by the usual tough diplomatic grind and preparations.

    There was even a suggestion that President Aquino should conduct peace talks the old and ancient way.

    To the critics, let me point these out:

    What we have is a penny-pinching president who hates to squander public money even in the quest of peace. He wants things up front and on the table, eliminating the need for the lengthy and often costly protocols.

    He does not think of his presidency in broad and grand historical sweeps. He simply wants peace to reign in Mindanao. And he wants the fighters of the MILF to lay down their arms and fulfill the biblical “turning of swords into plowshares.”

    The disdain for ceremony, by now, is a known feature of the Aquino style of governance.

    Here are the things that President Aquino is truly aware and conscious of:

    A peaceful Mindanao will result in a great leap forward for agricultural production. Mindanao alone can produce our rice needs, our yearly yellow corn supply for the poultry, hog, livestock sector and aquaculture. Being free of the dreaded foot and mouth disease, it can become an export base for raw meat or processed meat.

    Mindanao still has vast mineral reserves that are waiting to be tapped.

    Mindanao has several suitable ports, all staging areas for a vigorous intra–ASEAN trade.

    The human capital of Mindanao, saddled by centuries of conflict, can fully bloom and prosper under an environment of lasting peace.

    And Mindanao can be the microcosm of an open, tolerant society, a laboratory for beneficial co-existence.

    In our troubled world of clashing civilizations, Mindanao can show the world on the liberating wages of true peace.

    And just off Mindanao is the West Philippine Sea, a critical sea lane for global maritime and commerce and a known repository of hydrocarbon deposits.

    The economic dividends from the peace in Mindanao and the zones of tolerance and development that we can build there once peace is attained are bigger and nobler.

    "
    — For inclusive peace in Mindanao by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben P. Evardone for InterAksyon.com (via thegreatest)
     
  4. Tired and confused yet? Many Filipinos are. The 20th round of peace talks began on February 7, and it barely even hit the local news … exacerbating not just rampant ignorance of the issues, but also many Filipino Muslims’ feelings of isolation and insignificance.

    But Misuari, still the MNLF chairman, told Al Jazeera the fact that the government is even negotiating a peace with the splinter group is “an absurdity”.  He acknowledged the failures of his own 30+-year-old peace deal – but says it seemed designed that way on purpose by the government. 

    To “confuse” the Bangsamoro (Muslim) nation, and make it impossible for autonomy to ever work. 
    Misuari tells the story of how on the day they finally agreed a deal, the government negotiator told him separate talks would be started with the off-shoot MILF. “It was tantamount to sabotage,” Misuari said.

    Something to consider. When we look at other ‘war-torn’ countries we quickly forget that we are a country with zones of conflict and Filipinos are suffering for it. While from a national perspective, I truly wonder how much focus has been put on truly meeting and engaging the insurgents.

    On the other hand, the fact that the insurgents can’t seem to unify behind a single opposition entity means that even if the government seriously comes to the table not much can be done.

    I suspect it’s well past time for the government to step back and re-evaluate their approach. And for the insurgents to re-organize. Ego is only going to kill more Filipinos.

     

  5. "The best way to contain the spread of cholera is through prevention, and ensuring that people have access to clean drinking water. In refugee settings in conflict areas, people are forced to seek water wherever they can find it. By contrast, in many of the displacement camps in Port-au-Prince, people are provided with water that is less likely to be contaminated. This will hopefully mitigate the threat."
    — 

    Dr. David Olson, MSF medical adviser and cholera specialist in Haiti (via doctorswithoutborders)

    I wonder what’s going on with our conflict refugees. Made for some great soundbites and photo ops last week.

    Do they have access to clean water? Do they have basic sanitation facilities? How about access to primary care facilities?

    I’m going to go ahead and say…not really.

     

  6. ellobofilipino:

    Exactly Nik! NGOs are supposed to just take care of those spots which an established government missed. The irony in the Philippines though is despite the presence of a supposedly duly-constituted government, we have the most number of local NGOs in the world. And those NGOs serve local needs, not like those in the UK or the US. What does that say about our government and our people then?

    Yes, it is sad that almost everything that happens in Mindanao is categorized in the Regions section by the PDI and the other national broadsheets. And rarely does news on the IDPs and Mindanao get covered by those in the broadcasting companies. I guess this only shows the lack of appreciation most Filipinos from up north have about the gravity of the events down south. Wait, why does this sound like Sudan? Anyway…

    Yep, I agree, being here up north kinda limits the perspective sometimes about events down south. Had I been born here I would probably also not know much nor care about what is happening to people in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat or the Cotabatos. I would not care if the ARMM has the poorest provinces in the country; if people just get snatched by armed men in the streets of Isabela, Basilan; or if people die of aerial spraying in Davao.

    I probably would just care about the having the latest songs in my Ipod, buying a new Mac, or what lenses I would have next for my DSLR (which I only use as a bling-bling). Yep, I probably would have also ended up that way.

    But since I am from down south, I cannot but always think, write, and speak of the various events that happen there, both the good and bad. And it’s just sad that you seldom have people who actually take time to think of those events and go beyond the conventional albeit jaded perception of Mindanao being nothing but a place of never ending conflicts.

    Yep, KC Concepcion for WFP in Mindanao did land the front pages of national broadsheets. But it was just that: KC in Mindanao. There was not much about the ordeal of the bakwits. And I do find it funny when showbiz commentators and columnists liken her to Angelina Jolie. God! She’s way far off! While Jolie actively speaks for the oppressed and hungry people and places she has been to, I haven’t seen KC actively speaking out for the bakwits or peace in Mindanao. Oh well, I guess I expect too much…

    I am as patriotic as the next Filipino but I would really say that the ODA from aid agencies like the USAID or AusAid really does much to alleviate the poverty and misery in Mindanao. Despite their obvious strategic or military purposes, the Americans and Australians have done much where the national government has failed to provide. Leftist nationalists in Manila may condemn these organizations but it is these “agents of neo-imperialism” which actually build airports, roads, bridges in Mindanao, and even give out rice and sardines to evacuees displaced by the conflicts.

    The conflicts in Mindanao exist precisely due to the lack of attention given by the policy-makers and lack of condemnation by the general population up north. The only times people up north care about Mindanao is when a bomb goes off; a foreigner gets kidnapped; or something like the Ampatuan massacre occurs.

    The conflicts in Mindanao persist due to apathy from the rest of the country.

    margoism:

    the cry for a “damaso for mindanao” sounds very messiah-nic. but then again, that makes headlines. though personally, it’s the geographical location that also adds to the isolation…

    it’s a long shot but who knows, around the corner, there he/she is.

    Nah Margo, I was hoping someone would do a “Damaso” for Mindanao not as a single act to save Mindanao but at least to draw attention to the 250,000 internally displaced persons affected by the renewed conflict since 2008.

    And if geographical location is used by our leaders as an excuse on why they seldom come up with policies and programs for the Land of Promise, then maybe it is time to give power more to the leaders of Mindanao. Like what @iwriteasiwrite said, give more responsibilities and powers to the local government units, instead of having them supplicate before the people from up north. The very same people who actually live off their food and trade.

    If flamboyant personalities can raise the stakes on the debate regarding the Reproductive Health Bill, why can’t they do the same for Mindanao? Or maybe they, like many among here in the Capital, just don’t care. To paraphrase a line from the movie Sahara… It’s Mindanao, nobody cares about Mindanao

    As horrible as it is to say, it’s because the crisis in Mindanao is not ‘sexy’. Seriously. It isn’t a situation with a built-in villain du jour (as in the Catholic Church). In this case the enemy is…us.

    I know I have often quoted the lines of Nick Joaquin that “nationalism begins as a local piety”. And I wonder if it’s understood that much, not only here in the tumblr community but elsewhere. It encompasses so much of the faults that in the country today. We erroneously look to the national government as the fountain head of corruption and duplicity in this country. As if, from on high down corruption trickles and spreads its insidious influence.

    Not the case.

    In truth, it begins in the barangays and the LGUs around the country. Corruption works its way up, all the way to the top. From councilmen come mayors; from congressmen; from congressmen come senators; from senators come presidents. The failings of the country begin at the bottom. We can hope that clean governance can flow from the national to the local levels; and putting certain policies and procedures in place will help. But in the end, the local government is where the battle will really be fought. That is where change will really occur; if we want it to be so.

    When LGUs are treated as personal fiefdoms how can we expect the nation to prosper? What this means, inevitably, is that the situation on-the-ground must be addressed. It means that the national government was focus on cleaning up and empowering the LGUs: it’s the best and only way to truly fix the Philippines. The wellspring of corruption begins in the barangays.

    I have actually been thinking of writing something on the lack of real radicalism among the youth in this country; most especially absent among our so-called youth leaders. Who, as you point out with KC Conception, are less likely to actually be invested in rectifying the issue and more concerned with the perception of being a humanitarian.

    I keep returning to this example of my next door neighbor; hosting programs exhorting Green! Green! in the lead up to Earth Hour. Even if I remember, winning an award or two for their supposed brilliant hosting and advocacy. Then, on Earth Hour, the house was ablaze with flood lights, interior lights, external lights. It’s a small thing, but for me an example of the intellectual bankruptcy that remains pervasive among so-many of the so-called youth leaders and pop culture advocates.

    I am going to trot out my old stand-by about education. But without a foundation in education, without the infusion of social sciences and multi-disciplanary studies. Things that will help connect the Philippines by educating people on the broad diversity of the country. History and social studies should be, must be, grounded in the local, before layering the national on top. It makes the connection between local piety and nationalism. Right now, I wonder if this even happens. Do we make the connection between regions and nationalism? Do we understand that the diversity of the local immeasurably strengthens the whole? At least when properly utilized. I know I hinted at a post on NPR and BBC (something I never got around to finishing) in the past. The essential thrust was that we do not have government and publicly owned media that highlights the different regions of the Philippines. In Manila we do not hear about the latest bands from Cebu, or the up and coming writers and poets from Davao. Nor, would I hazard does this happen in Baguio or elsewhere. The cross-polination of culture and arts has never occurred.

    That is the very reason why insularity reigns in the Philippines. Because we simply aren’t exposed to the rest of the country in a meaningful and impactful way. Nor is this idea that the Philippines is made up of parts applied to governance. 

    I remember we even brought this up concerning the hostage crisis: would the expectation of Aquino (or for that matter the national government) stepping in and managing the situation have existed if this occurred in, let’s say, Mindoro? It even relates to the Ampatuan massacre; I still, somewhat cynically, wonder if the outcry would have been as great if journalists (and some international) had not been killed.

    I as well do not think Mindanao needs a ‘damaso’. If only because those who run around screaming ‘damaso’ are usually less inclined to actually discuss the issues and more inclined to garner media attention. What Mindanao, and by extension the rest of the country needs, are advocates and supporters who focus on good governance and the strengthening of the LGUs. It’s policies and education that have sent the Philippines into a downward spiral; most prominently represented in the areas outside of the NCR and urban areas.

    My belief remains the same: fixing the country may begin in the national government, but it will not be successful if local governments are not addressed and empowered.

    But in the meantime, policy-makers and media advocates must realize what is going-on in the South. I hope that could be the impetus for concrete change.

    PS: I doubt anyone who has read your blog would ever think of you as anything less than a patriotic Filipino. What you say speaks directly to the failings of the national and local governments to properly address the needs of their constituencies. That there are aid agencies out there willing to help us out only shines a light on their deficiencies.

    With regards to the NGOs, you know where I stand on them. Too many doing the same job! But, as a friend did once say: if it wasn’t for civil society volunteers and socially-minded individuals the country would never move forward. It’s just civil society can’t do it alone, nor are they capable of doing it alone. Nor should they in truth. 

     

  7. ellobofilipino:

    Finally someone from Luzon brings up the case of the bakwits in Central Mindanao!

    Yes sir, the conflict in the Central Mindanao area between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has displaced a huge number of the local population. And journalists from Mindanao have tried to bring this concern to the national consciousness by photos, videos, and stories of the lives of the bakwits in the evacuations camps.

    Sadly though, as with most Mindanao concerns such as the power crises; corruption and impunity of local political families; and even death and destruction during natural disasters, these often are left unheard by the policy-makers and the ordinary people here in the Capital.

    The problem of internally displaced persons in Mindanao has become so complex and herculanean that even the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) reported at one time that the number of IDPs was already over 700,000 persons. That is equivalent of the population of 7 developing cities.

    The lack of concern by policy-makers here in the Capital, the media, and of course, majority of the population amazes me. But what can you expect from these sectors when, as what you suppose, they may have been desensitized with decades of stories of conflict in several areas in Mindanao. And that attitude of apathy by most of the people in Imperial Manila actually adds more to the slogans that secessionist groups are using in Mindanao to recruit disgruntled and frustrated individuals.

    As what I said in one of our exchanges, I do not see any of the Capital’s flamboyant individuals standing up for the people of Mindanao, not even those who go to the bakwits to have their pictures taken while giving out bags of rice with a few cans of sardines. There is going to be no “Damaso” for Mindanao. Who cares about Mindanao anyway?

    Below is a picture from veteran Mindanao-based photojournalist Froilan Gallardo of one of the IDP camps in Maguindanao. This was taken June of last year. Froilan wrote the caption below.

    DATU PIANG, Maguindanao- IMAGINE THIS IS YOUR HOME. A family tries to have a normal life under trying conditions in an evacuation camp in Datu Piang town.

    I must confess, I had peripherally heard about what was going-on, but was unaware to the extent the situation had deteriorated until recently. That article that ran in the Inquirer today in the “Region” section was both shocking and depressing because of it’s location.

    How 250K Filipinos suffering is just grouped under ‘Region’ is beyond me. Further, in all of the talk that I’ve heard, in all of the work I’ve seen done on the MDGs and human rights, I have nary heard a peep about the bakwits. Which is shameful in and of itself. For example, during World Water Day all of the talk was on the Pasig and urban sanitation. My suspicion is urban issues sell newspaper and makes for better soundbites. Trying not to be too cynical, but I wonder if the only reason this got any national exposure was because KC Conception went down there.

    These types of situations reflect the misguided priorities of the country and it’s so-called civic and political leaders. I hope that the Aquino administration is going to start taking steps to improve the situation down there. Yet, what we have instead is in-fighting the DILG between Robredo and Puno. This situation as well, most definitely not a recent one, reflects as well what the DILG was utilized more for in the past: a source of funding, control and leveraging LGUs for personal and political gain. 

    The policy-makers should be ashamed. The representatives should be trumpeting the vast human rights violations that are occurring down there. World Hunger Day is approaching; this situation should be highlighted. The MDG Summit just occurred; this situation should be highlighted.

    I think if anyone investigates, or at least reads up on the situation in Mindanao and Maguindanao, they cannot help but sympathize with Filipinos down there: betrayed by their homegrown leadership, ignored by the national government. And the only ones down there doing anything are the UN, USAID, AUSAID etc.

    And a quick notation, if I remember correctly this is taking place in Maguindanao (in part). The old stronghold of the Ampatuans, who were empowered to raid government coffers and act with impunity by members of government on high. This is a continuing example of how national government and LGUs in concert have failed Filipinos.

    You know, we’ve discussed this before I think, but NGOs and aid are support to supplement existing government programs and fill in some of the blanks, or catch those who slip through the cracks. They are not a replacement or stand-in for LGUs and national government. 

    Not by a long-shot.

     

  8. Shining a light on conflict…

    Not many are aware that the Philippines is the site of an on-going conflict, creating a rapidly deteriorating refugee situation. The callous, or at least more jaded, would likely agree that it’s part in parcel with that fact that, well…it’s in Mindanao. And what happens in Mindanao does not really resonate up here. I hope and pray this is not the case; that really the lack of recognition of the on-going affair is just a by-product of the legion of issues facing the country. That, in efforts to clean up endemic corruption, root out impunity and disband private armies, the refugee issue will improve as well.

    I hope this is the case.

    Yet, the fact that 250,000 refugees are at near starvation levels of subsistence has barely registered on the political Richter scale up here. A din is raised from certain sectors concerning things like the RH bill or conditional cash transfers (come on, look at the big picture here) or the peace and order situation (hostage crisis/jueteng and so on) or amnesties or the 12 year education cycle (needed) or human rights and so on. In the background is a situation that encompasses all of these failings in Mindanao. Without the UN bringing the situation up, would we even be paying attention? Are we even paying attention knowing what’s going-on?

    Refugees by their very nature have little to no access to proper sanitation, health care, education and so on. They are the face of human rights violations stemming from impunity and warlordism; all reflections of a brutally cracked political system. A system that rewards the continued focusing on small matters to the exclusion of larger considerations. This is not me deriding the focus on larger system-wide issues that must be addressed. It is a critique of politicos who utilize and leverage smaller issues for political and personal gain. Politics is not a game measured in points, it’s a game measured in lives helped…or lost. And right now lives are being lost in Mindanao.

    In the UN Education for All Report it was noted that the Philippines refugee situation is not only undermining the current opportunities for displaced peoples, but seriously abrogating any opportunities their children may have for the future. 

    Regional data reveal deep fault lines in opportunity (Figure 3.9). Nationally, about 6% of those aged 17 to 22 have fewer than four years of education. In the best-performing regions — Ilocos and the National Capital Region — the share falls to 1% to 2%. At the other extreme, in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Zamboanga Peninsula over 10% fall below this threshold.

    The disparities are driven by a wide array of factors. The impact of high levels of poverty is exacerbated by conflict in Mindanao, and by the remoteness and wider disadvantage experienced by indigenous people in the Eastern Visayas and Zamboanga.

    So, let’s see, not only are the refugees being largely ignored in the broader media, and unfortunately by the government, not only are they displaced, not only are their lives threatened by warlordism and conflict, not only are they suffering from malnutrition and likely health and sanitation related diseases, their children are being set up to repeat the same cycle the parents are in.

    While I understand the Mindanao politicians ire concerning the allocation of the national budget, and they raise valid points, I find it surprising that they are not raising more of a ruckus concerning this situation. Or for that matter, why none of the politicians or media who purportedly believe in human rights and the pursuit of the MDGs aren’t attempting to address.

    Where is their outrage? Where is the storming out and deriding national leadership? Money is not the only way to win in the game of politics. Helping your constituents is not only measured in the amount of pork and funding brought home. It’s also about properly utilizing the resources at hand to help your constituency.

    In a way, I am muddling the situation by linking the desire of Mindanao politicos to have a larger piece of the budgetary pie with the refugee status. But, I cannot help but feel that the issue shouldn’t be necessarily about how much money you’re receiving. It should be about how the money is needed to help your constituents and why. This holds true for all representatives; Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao alike. Every time I hear a politician saying they need their ‘fair share’ I can’t but feel slightly cynical.

    Here is an on-going situation in Mindanao that has not been addressed by LGUs and only peripherally by the national government. Where are the cries of foul over that?

    Here, looming large over any attempts the Philippines to improve their health and social services, to improve the human rights situation, is a black stain on the Philippines. It is something that the national government and representatives from Mindanao should be working together to address. For the national government, here is a needed chance to demonstrate how important Mindanao is, for Mindanao representative and LGUs, here is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that you are more progressive and more concerned about your constituency than any other part of the country. Show the way, start in Mindanao.

     

  9. ellobofilipino:

    Ah yes sir, it would be nice to see the local executives take the lead in the development of their own local governments. There are a lot of Mindanao visionary leaders who can make the most for their places should that system be adopted. But this could also go both ways. There would also be those political families who might just used the position and funds to finance their perpetuity in power. And one of those families is the one you mentioned above.

    Your thoughts though reminded me of a governor back then who was suspended due to corruption charges. His case was one of the earliest stories I covered on local government and man, it was very chaotic, confusing, and filled with rhetorical tirades. It even resulted to a stand off at the Provincial Capitol and an assault by the police of a building he occupied. I hope such cases would not have to happen again int he future.

    Yes it is sad that foreign governments tend to have more “concern” over Mindanao than the national government. But knowing how pragmatic these governments are, we know that they are on the island for their own reasons. These are, of course, disguised by development work. I must say though that the US AID has done more development projects in Mindanao, probably even more than what the national government has done. Aus Aid also does a lot of work on the island.

    I remember some time back, both agencies approached my Papa and asked him to conduct a study into some areas in the Caraga region. But he declined them because it was already in the middle of the year and he was already busy coaching elementary and high school students for the regional schools’ press conference. After a discussion with him, we also thought it was unusual to be asked to conduct a study into areas long considered as strongholds of the New People’s Army. 

    True, President Aquino should visit Mindanao more often. I bet a lot of the Mindanao leaders and maybe even the ordinary Mindanaoans compare him with his predecessor. And most of them probably would say that they were able to approach the Moled One better because she can the speak the language of the majority on the island: Cebuano. Being someone who lacks the linguistic ability, he should make up for it by availability. I think that giving the ordinary people in the Land of Promise the impression that he is concern of them will go a long way in his plan to keep the country stable, peaceful, and moving towards development. And yes, having development in the island would really take away from the secessionist movements the necessary manpower they need to continue their distorted concepts of statehood.

    Then again, with the 10% allocation for Mindanao from the national budget, the national government has given them a fresh start to recruit disgruntled idealistic Mindanaoans who feel betrayed by the national government.

    Agree completely. I was quite surprised that there was such a reduced number in terms of allocation to Mindanao. What I would like to see is at least the Aquino administration come out and, maybe not defend, but supply the reasoning behind their various budget allocations. So at least we can hear what the hell is going on in terms of their thinking. Because right now, as you say, it is an issue that can be used as both a wedge and a recruitment tool. Honestly, I have been trying to find out why they did it and haven’t discovered anything that makes that much sense.

    What is curious is the increase in pork barrel amounts. I wonder if there will be additional funding to Mindanao out of discretionary funding? Would be interesting to see that. Still, Mindanao should not feel that they are being marginalized in budgeting at all.

    On the GMA issue…well there is a bit of political by-play there. As you know, unfortunately some of the politicians and GMA had mutually beneficial relationships going-on. Not only with the politicians, but with a number of businessmen (families) as well. I hope what we are seeing isn’t some sort of political backlash to those maneuverings. Because if that is the case then Luzon should be getting less than 10% of the budget.

    And that is an interesting story concerning Aus Aid and USAID. You often hear of various country-specific aid agencies expressing interest in putting together development packages and programs for those areas. As you say, you want to take them at face value and believe that their intentions are completely above board, but in the realm of international development aid sometimes being paranoid is just being prudent.

    Caraga…interesting. If I remember, wasn’t it Mindanao also where the Chinese expressed interest in acquiring something along the lines of 1m hectares worth of land? What we do know is Mindanao is an untapped bread basket type region, coupled with rich natural resources and biodiversity that can easily be leveraged for pharma and medical research.

    Oooo…paranoia.

    Tagged #Mindanao
     

  10. On Mindanao…

    ellobofilipino:

     iwriteasiwrite replied to your post:What are your thoughts regarding the allotment of only 10% of the total national budget to Mindanao? :(

    Honestly, I wasn’t sad to see the Mindanao Dev Office get shut down. As with many of the attached Presidential offices, it was more a source of patronage than anything else. I am disappointed to see that more dev assistance isn’t flowing to Mindanao.

    Ah yes sir, that one was definitely one of those offices which only existed for political accommodations and connections. And yes, the Office of the President has plenty of those. But there are also offices which focus on Mindanao which have done much for the island over the past few years. The problem is some of these offices’ works have gone unrecognized and that I think is the reason why the Office of the President also included them when he decided to close down inutile agencies under his office. I sure wish the new administration had been more discriminating.

    Yep, is is frustrating to not see much development assistance from the national government itself going into Mindanao. True, there is development assistance on the island but is from the Americans, Australians, Spaniards, Germans, etc. And that is the reason why most Mindanaoans feel more attachment with these foreigners that to their fellow Filipinos from up north. The same feeling is the basis for the disconnection between Mindanaoans and the rest of the country.

    On a side note, I don’t know if the national government knows this but secessionist movements e.g. NPA, MILF, Abu Sayyaf, etc., actually subsist upon the discriminatory policies of the national government on Mindanao. They use these as rhetorics to justify their armed struggle in the Land of Promise.

    Yup! You are right, there are some offices that have done great work in Mindanao; necessary work actually.

    My hope actually is that more of the development assistance will be funneled through the DILG, and thus, the LGU facilities. Strengthening their ability to oversee development in Mindanao will be a major boon to the region. And at least give them a measure of autonomy, within the framework of the Republic of the Philippines.

    As we have seen with the Ampatunas et al (Christians, Lumads and Muslim alike) the warlords have way to much control over dev funds that flow into Mindanao. Which, really is a problem all over the Philippines.

    And it is sad to hear that foreign entities are making more inroads in Mindanao than our own government! But I remember you even mentioned before how they actually like having a US military presence around. That the US helps them community wise much more visibly than the Philippine government.

    What would be great is if Aquino does in Mindanao what he did in California and Manila; set up town hall type meetings throughout the region. At least symbolically, and hopefully policy wise, it will help bridge the gap so to speak. As you rightly say, secessionist movements have no real legs to stand on when there is economical and social development. That is the real way to eliminate, or at least marginalize, these types of movement. Remove their ability to recruit. People who have opportunities are less likely to engage in unlawful activities. Or at least, will be more likely to air their grievances, not at the end of a gun, but through political avenues. Well, as long as they know they will be heard and engaged.