Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mindanao On Fire

Mindanao is on fire. Apart from the problem of rebellion and terrorism, the area South of the Philippine Archipelago is again burning from the chaos created by the massacre of 57 people, most of them journalists and relatives of a politician.

World attention is again upon us, but for the wrong and very embarrassing reasons. The massacre earned the country the distinction of having the most number of journalists killed in peace time. We have even eclipsed Iraq as the most dangerous place for journalists.

With foreigners not being able to distinguish between Manila and Maguindanao, their instinct would tell them to avoid the Philippines at any cost. There goes the precious investments funds and tourists dollars.

Although the so-called Maguindanao Massacre happened in Mindanao, the whole country suffers in terms of lost business opportunities.

Where do we go from here? Is there no hope for Mindanao? Can we count on the government to help set things rights?

All is not lost but only if we rely on our own initiative to cut the evil cycle of poverty-illiteracy-criminality and terrorism. If we look at the massacre issue, we would realize that it was only illiteracy that helped the Ampatuan clan exploit the ignorance of poor militiamen to carry out the slaughter.

These militiamen would not have been beholden to the Ampatuan clan had they been given a head-start in getting a good education so they can be professionals and businessmen and not be beholden to the patronage and graces of corrupt and powerful clans who provide the militiamen and their families all their economic needs.

What’s more shocking is that at the height of the military operations against the 200 militiamen loyal to the Ampatuans, it was reported that even child soldiers have been employed to help fight law enforcers.

While it is to fight the culture of guns in Mindanao, there is hope in educating the young for them not to take up the criminal activities of their elders. There is need to infuse the culture of books to eradicate the culture of guns and violence brought about by ignorance and poverty in Mindanao.

On this note, I enjoin you all to help our cause to flood Mindanao with books and not with guns. Let us arm Mindanao kids with knowledge so they can fight warlords like the Ampatuans or terrorists groups like the Abu Sayyaf who are aggressively working to get naïve and impoverished children to be their child soldiers.

By the way, if I am writing this after a six months hiatus, I thank an angel in the person of my cousin Olga Natividad who had come along to breathe new life in the cause of helping poor kids attain better life in Mindanao.

Ms Natividad had offered to tap her friends and relatives here and in the US to help the cause of the A-Book-Sayaf Group to help make poor Mindanao kids realize that there is a more stable and prosperous life aside from living through the barrel of a gun.

Thank you all.

Armand Dean Nocum
A-Book-Saya Group