Archive | June, 2017


All Wars Are Wars Against Civilians

Posted on 28 June 2017 by cbcs_mike

Neither the AFP nor the “Terrorist” Groups is winning the war

By Abu Mumar

(The author is a Bangsamoro independent thinker who spends his profession years in non-violent peace building. He heads the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), a Cotabato City-based Peace and Human Rights-based network of Moro NGOs and POs and an avid promoter of transitional Justice and Reconciliation)

The on-going violent battles in Marawi City will soon be over. One group may win the battle but no group is going to win the war. Surely, we are all the losers. The only benefits we can gain from these wars are lessons to be learned. Why they happened, how will they not happen again.


In this violence in Marawi City as they are in other parts of the Bangsamoro, many civilians lost their lives. Some are being held hostages. Others are trapped inside the conflict zones and still others are made human shield. Thousands were displaced living under the mercy of relief assistance. Millions worth of properties destroyed. Some children are sick, many died. Source of livelihood are stopped. The education of the children is disrupted. Relationship among people destroyed. Fresh wounds of prejudices and hatred developed.

Millions of pesos are spent everyday for this war rather than for development. And there is no guarantee that other similar or even worst battles can not occur sooner or later elsewhere. It was in Maguindanao, then to Basilan, then in Zamboanga City and now in Marawi City. The high-level armed skirmishes in Sulu, Basilan and Mahuindanao may have ended but sustained violence continues to no end. The fighting is not solving the roots of the real problems.

What is next after fighting? Relief and rehabilitation work? Mending destroyed relationships? And the vicious cycle continues. What justice is due to the displaced civilians? Those who died? Those whose properties were destroyed? Are they simply the “collateral damage”? Are there guarantees that the violence will not recur after the battles end? Are we making new history or continuing the history of violence from decades past?

Let us face it. War can only fulfill certain functions. Its usefulness is very limited. Violence does not recognize boundaries and targets. The acts of terror perpetrated by the enemies of the state and the corresponding anti-terror acts by the state are all producing casualties to the civilians. In Mindanao, as it is in the Bangsamoro, the violence has been there for long. We can condemn them (wars) but is it enough to curse them? Something comprehensive must be done to end the wars. What are the roots of conflict in Mindanao? What are the reasons why there are terror groups? What are the structural, emotional, psychological socio-economic bases of the conflict and terrorism?

Remember the 5 major causes of violence and the 6 paths to Peace during the administration of former president Ramos? Three presidents since then had ruled the Philippines after the 6 paths to peace had been formulated. Whatever happened to them? Was it the same as the all-out-war of Estrada? The all-out-peace of Arroyo and Aquino? Is this the same as the 6-point peace and development agenda of the present administration? Or is it just the syndrome of “pass it on” to the next administration?

Isn’t our conflict local? Why is it dragging too long? Why has it gained international recognition? Whatever happened to the Tripoli Agreement of 1976? The Jeddah Accord? The Final Peace Agreement of 1996? The FAB of 2012 and the CAB of 2014? When will we ever learn the art of implementing agreements? Are there frustration, disheartenment and hopelessness in the peace processes that has been dragging for long time that other groups are looking for other alternative means? Why have other wars ended and ours is still going on?

How many more lives, properties and millions worth of war materials do we need to dispense of before we say enough is enough? When will war end, to end the sufferings of the civilians?

The peace processes

Is there anything the on-going Bangsamoro peace processes can contribute in designing and implementing a more comprehensive solution to a complex socio-economic and security problems in the Bangsamoro? Will a meaningful autonomy, acceptable to Bangsamoro liberation fronts, be a deterrent to violence? Will it usher in cooperation between the national government and the liberation fronts to promote development and stamp out violence?

Aren’t the local “terrorist groups” homegrown ones? Were they not descendants of old comrades in the MNLF and the MILF? What are sending them to support international-based terror groups? Can development in the Bangsamoro attract them to return to the fold of peace process?

We are told that the use of arms or violence can not kill an ideology. But we can offer better ideas and alternatives to offset them. The grant of self-determination concretely expressed in meaningful autonomy will offset the demand for a separate state. This is suggested by a Catholic bishop and now cardinal as “a perfect balance between addressing a legitimate demand of social justice for the Bangsamoro and a respect to the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippine state. The success of the peace process is undoubtedly a big contribution in paving the way for national unity and reconciliation. This state of affairs will hasten cooperation in pushing for scaling up development in the war-torn Bangsamoro areas while at the same time working together towards preventing radicalization that can lead to terrorism.

We cannot afford to have another failure in the peace process.

If part of the reasons in the growth of local terrorist groups is the prolonged unresolved conflict and the frustration over the failure of the past agreements, another failure can be disastrous. The monolithic MNLF was factionalized due to dissatisfaction and frustrations. Except for the MILF who towed separately the pathway of the peace process, all the subsequent split groups followed a more “extremist” line. Failure in the MILF present peace process may produce high level of frustration, bitterness and disheartenment among its ranks. Their vulnerability to join the global ideology of the caliphate may not be remote. Should this be the case, peace negotiations can be relegated to the thing of the past.

We must end the violent wars through the peace process. We can not afford to see more civilians suffering from a prolonged war where there are no victories but only losers. In these wars the civilians are the sure losers and the rest of us.

Condemning terrorism is one thing. Offering better alternative is another thing. Using the hard approach of military counter-terrorism is necessary but can only fulfill limited functions. It is not sustainable. When the act of counter-terrorism goes beyond the limit and the use of force becomes inappropriate and in-proportionate, they can become harmful and can produce more potential terrorists. “The effectiveness and legitimacy of the state’s actions against terrorism will be undermined if the state, through any of its agencies, uses its power in violation of international human rights standards”.

We can kill one terrorist today, two terrorists will be born tomorrow. As has been the case of the Abu Sayyaf who has been pulverized (pulbos) many times in the past. A comprehensive approach based on the platform of addressing structural, psychological, emotional and socioeconomic marginalization is more strategic and sustainable.The state has to adopt a comprehensive approach to countering terrorism, with a particular focus on preventing and countering “violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism”, while upholding human rights and the rule of law.

We have to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro as well as other minority groups. There is the imperative need to correct historical injustices and address marginalization, political exclusivity and discrimination. To avoid emotional grievances, profiling of criminals or “terrorists” built on “stereotypical assumptions based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, etc. are not only discriminatory but also ineffective”Using the above approaches, we can solve our domestic problems. After all, all conflicts are local. Their solutions are also local.

Our failures can only attract many to join others.

CBCS Secretariat

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