To those calling for war or peace in Mindanao: You’re not asking the right questions

Despite having been to Mindanao more times than the average Manila resident when I was younger, I can’t really say I know the place as well as some of those who are quick to offer “solutions” to the “situation” over there. To begin with, it was mainly its major cities that I’ve been to — Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Cotabato City, and Zamboanga. Aside from these cities having better roads and less traffic than much of Metro Manila, I can’t really say there is much about any one of these cities that makes them particularly remarkable. They all seem to be exhibiting the same signs of heading down the same development trajectory that Manila had been through; with jeepneys and tricycles proliferating in the absence of any coherent mass transport plan, pockets of squatter communities already starting to encroach on public land, and visibly denuded mountains and hills ominously ringing densely-populated lowlands. Maybe this is a reflection of where Mindanao is headed in general — down the same path of politically-motivated mediocrity.

Then again I could be wrong. I thought at the time that Mindanao held lots of promise. Its cities are well-connected by good roads and fertile land and mineral resources abound. Ordinary Christians and Muslims co-exist peacefully and do business with one another over there without any dramas.

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Like much of the Philippines, however, Mindanao is a victim of Filipinos’ renowned heritage of smallness. While multinational companies like Dole and Del Monte had built cultivation and production of pineapples to vast industrial scales, much of the agriculture in Mindanao remained fragmented and inefficient. Transport of goods from farm to market is costly kilo-por-kilo with small jeepneys and tricycles still being the preferred mode of moving harvest to markets where they could be sold to end-consumers or big consolidators which include corporations like San Miguel, General Milling, and Vitarich as well as trading enterprises owned and run mostly by Filipino-Chinese families. Losses along that supply chain are huge. A big portion of the harvest of corn and rice is lost to spillage and pilferage as it is moved from one mode of transport or storage to another. Because there are no mechanised bulk drying and handling facilities for grain crop, the movement of these goods is subject to the whims of the weather.

In such an economy, middlemen routinely make lots of money while the farmers get the raw end of most deals. Demand and supply of both produce and the fertilisers, seeds, and other input into agricultural production can be artificially manipulated by those who broker the movement of these goods into and out of Mindanao. Very little of the profits coming out of these commercial machinations trickle down to poor and chronically indebted farmers. Though I’m not really a big enough expert to prescribe solutions around how to get a bit of that money channeled into the pockets of these farmers, my guess is much of it has to do with infrastructure — more organised cooperatives, farm to market roads, efficient transport, and public storage facilities would be a start. Perhaps ports also need to be upgraded so that bigger ships and better equipment can handle these goods in greater bulk.

Do I think peace and order is really an issue?

Perhaps. But then way back on my first trip to General Santos City I had a guide — a Muslim trader — who helped me get in touch with some of the contacts I needed over there to do my job. When I first met him, I naively asked him about the tension between Muslims and Christians I kept hearing about. In response, he quipped: “What tension? That’s all being made up by the politicians of both camps. There is no tension among the lot of us, whether Christian or Muslim, who just want to do business.”

That is the Mindanao I personally had come to know. Politics and religion there, just like in most places in the Philippines, get in the way of real progress. The thing with the truly insightful is that they ask the right questions. And for me, the question of whether we want to “push” for “war” or “peace” in Mindanao is not one of those right questions that need to be asked. But then conflict is what makes our politicians and religious leaders relevant in our society. The on-going tragedy is that we continue to look to our politicians and religious leaders for answers to our flawed questions.

43 Replies to “To those calling for war or peace in Mindanao: You’re not asking the right questions”

    1. Paulit-ulit na etong dahilan na eto, nakakasawa na.

      Patunay na hindi kaya ni AbNoy lutasin ang problema sa pilipinas. Hanggang pagsisi nalang siguro kay GMA ang kaya nyang gawin buong termino nya. “AbNoy, The Blaming President” ang magiging legacy nya—Kahit na wala na si GMA sa pwesto, isinisisi pa rin nya ang kanyang mga maling desisyon kay GMA. Hopeless na etong si AbNoy.

      1. Hindi lang “The Blaming President” kundi “The Cowardly President” because blaming others, even the past administration, are always acts of cowardice and its very unfitting for a leader.

        Even my father is a better man compared to Noynoy because he has leadership skills. 🙂

        1. Ginawa na din ni Cory yang witch hunt na yan. Kung yung pumatay nga kay Ninoy hinde na nahuli eh. Meron bang nakulong sa mga cronies nung panahon ni Marcos? Meron bang nabalik sa mamamayan? Nabalik siguro sa mga oligarchs.

      2. favorite punching bag of simeon the turd is gloria arroyo.everytime he made a blunder or palpak na decision, the yellow zombies and the allied news media will release immediately anything about gloria to divert the attention of the masses.

    2. Ang sarap maging DUWAG, Vincenzo? Even my father is a better man than your cowardly idol. Unless your Tito Noy will do a Hitler. Why I say this? Hitler blamed the Jews for the evils of Germany yet he managed to do his “Final Solution.”

      Reality check: “Real leaders never play the blame game.” AFAIK, you never act being one. And you’re such a horrible person.

  1. This is also one classic example of how mass media is able to, through its selective manner of reporting, leave its audience with a harmfully skewed image of the actual reality.

    Mass media exploits pinoy society’s victim mentality, paranoia, narcissism, shallowness, and intellectual laziness by this selective reporting method. It knows how to indulge typical pinoy weaknesses in order to shamelessly promote favored individuals, groups, or causes while demonizing the rest.

    1. My point here being btw, is that mass media have had a hand in creating this impression of the south—the mere mention of it evokes images of conflict and hostility. Unless people are equally fortunate to have been there to experience it themselves as you had, mass media sensational manipulative reporting would be taken by the unthinking masses as the last word on how things truly are.

      1. Yes, media have had a hand in creating this impression and they still do until now. Can’t blame them, though, because that’s part of their job and lest we forget the ratings and circulation numbers involved in it. But i beg to disagree that having been here as a casual visitor would impart to you the whole truth of the situation here in Mindanao. It is bad enough that you worry about the rising cost of living, about meeting next month’s bills and other mundane problems. Topping it off with having to worry when and where the next bomb will explode or having this recurrent fear of getting caught in the crossfire is enough to send you to the loony bin. It’s hell but love it here. hehe

    2. Filipinos need to apply a healthy dose of skepticism when regarding what their Media present to them. They rail against politicians yet eat up the bullshit info dished out on oligarch-owned TV, radio, and print. As if traditional media weren’t enough, we now have an army of hollowheads fielding 140 character out-of-context and substance-starved one-liners on Twitter and spreading ill-thought-out drivel on Facebook.

      Trouble with social media “activists” is that they think that scanning news snippets for ‘trending’ words and publishing an “opinion” about these over multiple ‘tweets’ each of which not going beyond five words and a quoted catchphrase of the day constitutes a contribution to the collective intellect.

      Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to getting to a meaningful and insightful take on something that matters, despite a proliferation of all these new insta-publishing platforms making everyone believe their opinions are so priceless.

      1. Kasi nga nsa kultura pa rn ntn ang takot na naiwan ni Arroyo,tgnan m0h pg me c0nv0y sya mpipilitan ka h0minto

    3. Your wr0ng,the media is d0ing their j0b fine. What is wr0ng are people like GMA, FG Mike, Ampatuan, Garcia and Ligot.

      1. Meh. Please don’t treat sensationalized news as important information. And the Ampatuans exist before GMA came into power due to ‘datuism’ so your post is an epic fail.

        Siguro nagti-trip ka lang. If not, you’re a real fanatic. 😛

  2. Perhaps we can use the media to our advantage? Showcase some of the Aquino’s legacy and their ‘dark secrets’ to the public and let’s see what do they say about that.

    1. There is no such thing. Gawain lang yan nga mga bitter kay Tito Noy, kasi talunan ang mga man0k nla n0oNg eleksy0n at hnd mtnggap ang pgktalo. L0ok at GMA, may “dark secrets’ sa Germany

      1. Puro dahilan at di nalang magtrabaho para sa taumbayan yan si AbNoy. Inuuna pa kasi yun kanyang mga KKK.

        Buti sana kung politiko lang ang natalo. Ang buong Pilipinas ngayon ang talo dahil hindi mo maasahan talaga rehimeng Aquino. Halata naman.

      2. And may ‘dark secrets’ din ang mga Aquinos and their allies. It was chronicled through the following books: Cecilio Arillo’s “Greed and Betrayal” and “Neither Trumpets nor Drums” by the late Salvador H. Laurel.

        And those ‘dark secrets’ that you’re talking about are nothing but conspiracy theories and such. Tsismoso ka talaga, dong. Saan mo nakuha iyan? You’re very good on demonizing everyone, huh? 😛

  3. In my elementary years; Mindanao was called the Land of Promise…In our Feudal-monopolistic Oligarchy form of government. The people with money makes more money. It’s not the farmers who do the work, that make money of their crops. It’s the Big Middlemen Traders…
    They put Religion as an issue, because, they want people to follow them….these are False Leaders, and Demagogues, who use Religions to get votes and followers…
    Same problem as in the Czarist Russia, prior to the October Revolution. The Czar was both the Ruler and the religious leader. Lenin simply stated: “Religion is the Opium of the people.” So, he banned all religions. Stalin built Gulags (concentration camps) that made all religious leaders of any kind, his slave workers…I think, Stalin was right…

    1. “Religion is the Opium of the people.”

      That was originated by Karl Marx. But I don’t get what the people of Mindanao want.

      1. Oh I see. That means, mahina talaga mag-influence ang mga Aquino. Imagine naging presidente na nga si Cory, nasa showbiz na nga si Kris at ngayon nasa malacanang na si Tito Noy mo, wala pa din effect sa mamamayan. You admit that wala talaga silang “dating” at walang magagawang matino para sa bansa.

      2. Only idiots will say that. That influence have started on the rich families (Aquino, Conguanco, Ayala, Lopez, etc.) than Arroyo.

        BTW, I salute her on her effort to make Meralco a government-controlled company but the Lopezes, who owned Meralco, were pissed. So you fail again, deluded fanatic. 😛

    2. Hi, Hyden. There is still a lot of promise in Mindanao. I think you can put your learnings to good use there.

      As for the conflict down there, if I review my old world conspiracy theory notes, our neighbor down there had a hand in that, right? Remember the Jabidah incident during the Marcos-era? I think it’s sort of related to that Sabah claim. Anyway, that thought is best continued over SMB and probably some weed.

      1. Promised to be killed also…or in the conflict?…I don’t believe in promises already, especially from Filipinos. They promised us good and prosperous lives, to get our votes. Now, we are OFW slaves/Drug Mules. The Monopolistic-Feudal-Oligarchs are the beneficiaries of their promises. We all got holding empty Bags…huwag na, Tsoy, OFW slave na lang ako…ayaw kong maging Drug Mule…masakit ang Lethal Injections ng mga Intsik…

  4. @benigno:

    I’m from a family who lost someone in the old war down there. Initially, when the news came out that there’s another storm brewing there, I wished for a nuke to just come out of the sky and end everyone’s misery in Mindanao.

    Bottom line: A decision to go to war should not be made on just emotion, an empty stomach and an empty head. I guess it’s good that Pnoy was emotionally distant and probably full at the time he heard the news. Kiddin’

    On the comment made by Felipe above: I think that Mindanao may seem worse than it really is, at least peace and order wise. After all, Basilan, Sulu, Maguindanao, Zamboanga are just parts of the island. It’s a huge place, you know.

    On poverty in Mindanao: I think it’s more than just the peace and order situation. I mean, I have friends there. And believe their stories, I get that Mindanao is a land of opportunity.

    Your story on agriculture is true not just for Mindanao. It’s the same story here in Luzon.

    1. Spot on! The media make it look like Mindanao is unique in the issues it faces in its journey towards prosperity. But then as you said, many of its problems are relevant across the entire country and therefore any “calls” for war should be regarded with the same frame of mind we Luzonians would apply if, say, the location of this “war” being “debated” happened to be within Luzon.

  5. Your observation about the places of Mindanao are very correct. Davao city is no exception. Their land use plan and zoning ordinances are arbitrary as can be observed from the number and speed in reclassifying land by the local legislature, the inability by the local government in providing a comprehensive urban and regional plan if ever there is one. I cannot help but think that there is a breakdown of law and order here because squatters are everywhere from the city’s shoreline and riverbanks up to the sidewalks meant for pedestrians, tricycles compete with taxis at night and undisciplined motorists especially PUV drivers who thinks every inch of the road is either a terminal and a loading/unloading zone. The local press acts like they are the mouthpieces of the encumbent and they seem not to possess the cojones of a critical reporter. What is lamentable is the local folks are still in a state of denial.

    1. i lived in davao.
      hustlers and hookers on the streets
      rats in the sewers and city hall
      the stench of durian and corruption everywhere
      presided over by some failed wannabe cowboy marshall.
      dutuerte and his death squad is symptomatic of why the country remains 3rd world. someone with little intellect, vision or interest except his own tin badge.
      and his thug daughter carries on the regime
      another narcissistic politician.
      his corruption is staggering
      his destruction of davao criminal
      a jungle bunny with a gun.

  6. With CDO as my home since I was born, I often question why Mindanao is always singled out and being exaggerated in the headlines in terms of peace and order and poor economy. Cities in Mindanao are just the same as any other cities in this country. They all have the same problem with peace and order, with pollution, with dirty politics, with joblessness. Compared to Manila, I believe my city has fewer bombings, fewer cheats and con artists (in clean clothes or not). If there is a referendum now, I choose that this island split away from Luzon’s Manila. Manila has the media companies that put a bad light to this island. Manila has the media companies that promote the idea that corruption and patronage will prop up one’s political career. Manila has the media companies that boost the concept of “Proud Pinoy”, when there is nothing really to be proud of, and this is sadly being indoctrinated to the Mindanaons who lost their identity for the dummies they see on television. If we do not have the Crazies in Manila as the pathetic standards for this island, I believe we can start from scratch and make it better than Luzon (we have better weather conditions here, btw). We have good leaders here too (they may be corrupt like all corrupt politicos in Pilipinas but they are good). Just like any other cities in this country, we thrive the same way, but the television and radio companies degraded our image. Oh well, maybe there’s something good in it anyways…because every time I ride a taxi in your precious Manila or tell the Tagalogs I am from Mindanao, I create a worrying and terrifying experience for them without making any effort on my part…

    1. “Oh well, maybe there’s something good in it anyways…because every time I ride a taxi in your precious Manila or tell the Tagalogs I am from Mindanao, I create a worrying and terrifying experience for them without making any effort on my part…”

      Hahaha so true, my friends have the same story…

      I remembered a time when a girl from Manila was first transferred here in BXU (Caraga). As the new student in an unfamiliar place, we made her feel at home and taught her to understand bisaya.
      We even laughed when she said she might be forced to convert into islam or get shot from rebels running around and this is the same reaction her friends from Manila called to check up on her. Now she is labeled ‘Astig’ from her Manila friends

      Same story about my bestfriend who’s parents migrated to Manila and all her classmates has to be careful around her coz ‘she’s from Mindanao’

    2. Compared to Davao City, CDO is miles ahead when it comes to peace and order. Cagay anons are friendly but they are brutally frank as well. Their city officials up to the mayor are approachable even up to their governor. Their local officials have the business savvy of attracting capital. Just visit the place now on you’ll be awed. In less than ten years, I think (if it still has not) it will overtake Davao as the trading center for mindanao. Look at its trading partners now. They have Bukidnon and the northern Mindanao area with Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, and Bohol as well. I spent my last 8 years of my bachelors life there and enjoyed every minute of it. Their only problem there is I think is their lack of road courtesy. Had I had a choice then, I could have chosen CDO.

  7. You are damn right about this. What tension when there isn’t even a sizable Muslim population that you can compare to that would create such a problem.

    You are also very right about the politicians making this all up. I remember that I’ve read somewhere, though I can be mistaken, about Manuel Quezon’s disinterest of Muslims in general and didn’t want them cohabiting with the Christian majority. And onwards toward the present politicians have remained this prejudiced against the Muslims (you can correct me on this bit about how the frictions started- mind is so vague at the moment).

    I am very glad for the Dutertes, though. And I don’t ever want to hear the bull of those who accuse them for breeching human rights. In my eyes and heart, they are right in what they do to those who do crime, even when they’re petty. People in Davao are proud of them and their city, because now it’s cleaner and safer to walk around the streets at night. I don’t like dictators generally. But it seems like the public is asking for it, and Davao is such example. We like fear I suppose? To be subjugated, to be dominated? People cry and whinge about being oppressed. In truth, they are their own oppressors.

  8. The Muslim rebels, whether MILF, MNLF, or BMLF, and even the outlawed ASG, have no place in Mindanao. They have been trying to secede from the Phlippines and make Mindanao a separate Islamic state. How can you do that when 80% of the population in Mindanao are Christians? But they are a persevering group, as the present and previous governements (with the exception of Estrada) give them a glimmer of hope that their purpose can become a reality. The government should just learn from the Estrada Presidency that the Muslim rebellion can be quashed. There should be no let up in military attacks until the last Muslim rebel is dead or has surrendered and put down in arms. Only then can we have peace in Mindanao.

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