Aug 3, 2009

War for What?

By Vanna Punsalan

The Philippine archipelago is composed of 1, 107 islands and islets, making it one of the largest archipelago in the world. It is mainly composed of three major islands: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Luzon is where the seat of the Philippine government is. The Visayas is where you can find beautiful beaches and vacation places. On the other hand, Mindanao is where most of our Muslim brothers and sisters are concentrated.

At present, we can read and hear so much sad news (both in print and broadcast media) about the goings-on in Mindanao. Bombings are mushrooming everywhere and this is quite disheartening to note.

Many families have relocated to other areas, while those who stayed psyched themselves to become immune to the loud sounds of gun fires and explosions. The children are getting used to playing empty magazines of guns and armalites littered in their area. Mothers had taught their children to play hide and seek just to be safe and save themselves from whatever might happen. Mindanao today is a very volatile area, a silent bomb slowly ticking away. Kidnappings, ambushes, and bombings have risen in numbers in this nature-rich island in the past decade. When and why did these start?

As a kid growing up in Luzon, I have often heard of the group Abu Sayaff in Mindanao. The group’s name, based on media reports, is synonymous to kidnappings and merciless killings in Mindanao. Abu Sayaff is clamoring for the Bangsamoro or the supposed homeland of the Muslims, which will cover all the territory within the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan area or MINSUPALA. Many people, both foreigners and Filipinos, have been kidnapped in this area by Abu Sayaff members. The last group kidnapped, which created big headlines, were two foreigners and a Filipina, all working for the International Red Cross. We all know what Red Cross stands for. They were there to help people who are victims of the senseless war. They were there to lend a hand, especially to the children whose childhoods have been stolen by the turn of events in the island. But the Abu Sayaff must have been thinking otherwise.

Just the other day, the one-year old boy who was hit by a shrapnel on his chest when a bomb exploded in front of a church in Cotabato passed away, after battling for his life for the past couple of days. That boy could have been the next president of this country, for all we know. He could have been the best president this country would have ever known. Alas, his life was cut short by adults who, by the natural course of things, should have known better. To his parents, he was their little boy who could have grown up to be a fine young man. But to the group of people who wanted to wreak havoc to Mindanao’s peace and order, he was just another collateral damage.

The Abu Sayaff, the Moro International Liberation Front (MILF), the National People’s Army (NPA) and their allies are fighting for their ideals. But living in a civilized world means having to live with the laws and rules that have been passed on through legislation. While there may be some shortcomings or loopholes in some of our laws, we still need to respect such laws.

So what is our government doing to eliminate or even curb these senseless violations of the ordinary citizens’ rights to live in a free society? Perhaps it is about time that our congressmen and senators should focus on the peace and order situation in Mindanao. If a sex video scandal of an actress and a doctor turned part-time actor is worthy of a Senate investigation, shouldn’t these senseless violence in Mindanao be worthy of their time and budget appropriations too? Or would these unfortunate incidents be looked into, the welfare of the people in Mindanao be appropriately assessed, and needed financial and other assistance be given to them now that the national election is fast approaching?

When the President left for her trips abroad recently, many Cabinet members went with her despite the threat of swine flu. That trip cost millions of pesos for the Filipino taxpayers. As seen on TV and newspapers, the Cabinet members had with them members of their families. Isn’t this preposterous, seeing our tax monies being spent for these trips while many families in Mindanao suffer from hunger and cold because they no longer have a place they could call “HOME?”

Isn’t it outrageous to know that many government projects’ budgets are bloated because of “tongpats” while many children in Mindanao are crying for a plate of food? And isn’t it absurd to see in the news what our legislators are doing while they are on session either in Congress or in Senate? TV news cameras caught some of them sleeping, others are always absent, while others do not listen to their colleagues who are speaking on the podium. For an ordinary taxpayer like me, I feel like crying. The Professional Heckler (yes, the blogger) is right – the problem with political jokes is they get elected. Do we really deserve this kind of government officials?

With elections, the budget is always pegged in millions if not in billions of pesos. The military budget is the same. I’m just wondering…. How many soldiers do we have as against the number of the outlaws in Mindanao who are now sowing fear in the area? How many weapons do we have as against theirs? How many experts in the art of war do we have as against them? But how come until now, they are still out there, scot-free? When will the killings, the kidnappings, the bombings stop in Mindanao? When will the children be able to sleep peacefully? When will they be able to play outside and smell the fresh air, not an air tainted with the stench of gun fires and bombs?

When my son grows up, what kind of history of our country do I tell him? Should I admit that within this period of our country’s history, the government was not able to pulverize rebels and bandits, especially in Mindanao? Should I admit to him that our legislators focused more on inane issues like sex video scandals and escort services? Should I admit to him that life was very difficult for the children in Mindanao?

What was the war for in Mindanao in the first place? Were greed and corruption so strong that it was alright to steal the children’s childhoods and dreams from them?

Let’s take a cue from one of Michael Jackson’s songs…let’s all step forward to heal Mindanao, make it a better place to live in, especially for the children. After all, we are one country, one people.


August 3, 2009

On August 5, 2009, an Emergency Humanitarian Mission into the armed conflicts and typhoon flooded area of Datu Piang, Maguindanao organized by Asia America Initiative, a non-profit charitable and educational organization. Asia America Initiative (AAI) with assistance from international donors and local non-governmental organizations will deliver P15,000,000.00 of emergency medical and other humanitarian supply.

The mission is being coordinated in partnership with local government units in Mindanao. Participating private organizations are both Christians and Muslims working together for peace and to relieve the suffering of more than 300,000 and turn-away displaced persons from both armed conflict and the recent typhoon. Donors include International Medical Corps Worldwide, Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Poor, Sisters of the Poor and International Relief and Development, Mckie-Hemrick Foundation, Kindness in Action, and Interchurch Medical Assistance. For the volunteer youth arm we have AAI's Catalysts for Peace, and partner organizations such as Municipality of Datu Piang, Young Moro Professionals Network, Ayala Young Leaders Alliance, Alliance of Bangsamoro for Peace and Sustainable Development, and Liguasan Youth Association for Sustainable Development.

The mission will be focused in and around the town of Datu Piang were more than 90,000 families are surviving without basic needs like food, water and shelter in the mud and monsoon rain.

Kindly send your news team to attend the said activity at 9:00 AM in Datu Gumbay Elementary School, Datu Piang, Maguindano. For more details, you may coordinate with Ms. Rohaniza Sumndad (09175070323), Kim Bagundang (09262768698), Razel Junsay (816-3305/09208366933).