Friday, January 15, 2010

‘Disarming’ Mindanao should be next admin’s priority

01/14/2010 | 08:35 PM

Original Story:

The next administration should give extra attention to Mindanao in light of the recent violence there that brought to national consciousness the problems on private armies and warring political clans, presidential aspirants told a forum on Thursday.

Only three of the nine presidential hopefuls showed up at the forum organized by the Romulo Foundation, the ABS-CBN News Channel, and the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

The three – Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (Lakas-Kampi-CMD), Sen. Manuel Villar (Nacionalista Party) and Sen. Richard Gordon (Bagumbayan) – said the proliferation of private armies in Mindanao could be rooted down to two things: the absence of strong government presence and the belief that disputes could be settled through the use of a gun.

The government said most of the private armies in the country are employed by political dynasties in Mindanao.

“As a Red Cross volunteer, I’ve been in Mindanao back and forth many times. What I saw was … a lack of governance. The fact that people have no choice so much so that they have to pack a weapon so they can make sure that they are protected and that they can have livelihood," said Gordon, head of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC).

Gordon went as far as saying that Mindanao is “the land and burial ground of promises by politicians."

Villar, a noted businessman, said the problem mirrors the poor economic situation in the region. "Economic development is the long-term solution for this," he said.


He said the priority should be the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the poorest region the country. One of the provinces under it, Maguindanao, had been the site of grisly massacre last November where 57 people, most of them journalists, were brutally shot by armed men allegedly serving the powerful Ampatuan clan.

“We have to prioritize the ARMM because this is the poorest region in the Philippines. Resources must be put here if necessary bypassing the local officials. We must focus on this area," Villar said.

He also said that the massacre in Maguindanao should not be viewed as an isolated case.

“This must be viewed in the larger context of the Mindanao problem. Has to be addressed, strike at the root of the problem. Clearly, poverty is at the root of the problem," he said.


Teodoro said the state should go heavy on private armies and at the same time usher a culture of diplomacy among Mindanaoans.

“Probably the solution to Mindanao should come from the Mindanaoans themselves who have to be forced to live with each other alongside each other. It should come from themselves, and we should steward a condition whereby that solution comes out through political discourse and debate and not neighbors disagreeing with each other and picking up a gun to settle disputes," said the former Defense secretary.

The forum entitled "Philippine Credibility and Competitiveness in the World" also tackled education, corruption, ambassadors, and migrant workers. Those who sat in the question panel were Ambassador Rodolfo Severino, head of ASEAN Studies Center, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies; Philippine Star Editor/Columnist Amy Pamintuan; and CNN correspondent Jaime Floro Cruz.

Also in attendance were former president Fidel V. Ramos and representatives from the business and diplomatic communities including at least 20 ambassadors.

The forum was moderated by Ricky Carandang of ANC Channel. - KBK, GMANews.TV

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