Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 20 September 2013


In all the discussions, analyses, and reports on the Zamboanga crisis that I have read or watched, I have yet to hear the following question asked or issue raised: Who financed this Misuari-organized caper that has led to such tragic consequences?

Because, let’s face it: When you send 200 men armed to the teeth to raise Cain, that takes a lot of resources just for the required firepower, not to mention transportation costs. (Some reports say 100 men, but this figure doesn’t compute: As of Sept. 19, 80 of the fatalities had been identified as Moro National Liberation Front rebels, and 38 MNLF had reportedly surrendered. But there were still MNLF combatants engaging the army in battle.) And Nur Misuari, having reluctantly left government at least 12 years ago, and suffered a reversal of fortunes since then, isn’t likely to have too much personal resources at his disposal. Plus, even if he did have sufficient personal resources, it isn’t likely that he would use them.

So to repeat: Who financed Misuari’s men?

In an interview with the presidential peace adviser, Secretary Ging Deles (to be aired on Monday), I asked her the question. Her answer was that there were many people (other than Misuari and his miserable band of men) who wanted the peace process with the Bangsamoro derailed. Obviously, they had something to gain from such a situation, so the country and its best interests be damned.

I then asked if these were foreign interests, because I remembered the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram, in one of his (ill-fated) letters to P-Noy, pointing out that it was Malaysia, for example, that financed the creation of the MNLF in retaliation for the even more ill-fated Marcos plot to reclaim Sabah that resulted in the so-called Jabidah massacre. And then of course there is always the possibility of al-Qaida involvement, although this may be a stretch if we consider the contention of Maria Ressa that al-Qaida had very strong links with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, not the MNLF.

But no, Ging Deles did not think that foreign interests were involved. Which of course leaves us with local, domestic interests. Like who?

Like those who want to see this administration fall flat on its face. For any number of reasons, of course. In retaliation or revenge or payback for real and/or imagined injuries caused particularly by P-Noy. As a springboard to victory in the next elections (it’s never too early to start).

Unfortunately, but expectedly, Ging was not about to give for-examples. However, although the possibilities are endless, they can be narrowed down. Because aside from retaliation/revenge/payback/springboard motive,  the parties involved must also have the wherewithal to contribute. Which, let’s face it (again), leaves us with mostly not simply politicians but politicians who have enriched themselves considerably while in office (which, my cynical mind insists, is a great majority of them).

See how graft and corruption come back in an infinite number of forms, to kick us in the face, aside from picking our pockets?

One only has to refer to the 2005 Philippine Human Development Report (disclosure: I am a member of the Philippine Human Development Network, which published the Report in cooperation with the UN Development Program and NZAID) to see how costly the conflict on the Moro front has been to the Filipino people.

The Report estimates the economic cost of the Moro conflict thus: first, losses in present and future output—about P8.2 billion annually in periods of intense conflict (1970-1982, 1997-2001); and over the entire history (1970-1981), approximately P108-158 billion, or about 0.5 percent of national GDP. Add to this the so-called “investment deflection” because the region and the country’s reputation as an investment area suffer. What is more, on the local level, investment in agriculture fails to take place. If that foregone investment is added, the economic cost is larger at P10 billion annually from 1975 to 2002.

Now this may be tangential, and if it is, I apologize for it, but it is instructive to note that corruption losses from the pork barrel—assuming 40 percent on a base of P25 billion a year, just for the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) and VILP (Various Infrastructure including Local Projects) without congressional insertions—have also been at least P10 billion a year. Which is why we need to remove the pork barrel, as well as ensure that the peace process is successfully accomplished.

But wait: That is not all. According to the Report, other things being equal, a province in Muslim Mindanao tends on average to have poverty incidence that is 32 percentage points higher, income per person P11,000 lower, basic education cohort-survival rates 31 percentage points lower, and infant-mortality rates 15 points higher than the rest of the country.

And how many people are we talking about? Jessa Encarnacion of the National Statistical Coordination Board kindly provides the information that the 2010 census reveals that in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 93 percent of the 3.2 million people are Muslims (who also comprise 22 percent of Mindanao, and 6 percent of the Philippines).

And if anyone says that ARMM is too far off, or that 5.1 million Muslims out of a total of 92.1 million Filipinos are really too small a number to matter, I can only point out to them an analogy: A toenail or a tooth may be a very small part of the human body, but let that toenail be ingrown, or that tooth have a large cavity, and you will know what agony it can create in the afflicted person.

So shame on those people who have put their personal interests above the national interests. They don’t deserve to be called Filipinos.