Approaches to Peace

Posted: September 2, 2010 in Political

Approaches to a Peaceful and Livable Community

If you may notice in the program, I am succinctly described as a columnist/writer, and, not as one who has forte at verbalization of things and ideas.

I am very happy with the description, as this serves as a virtual justification for my mangled pronunciation and my terribly twisted English accent.

There are some who say that contemporary university students consider good English pronunciation and accent as singular measures for intellectualism, and that they tend to subordinate under these standards all forms of theoretical discourses.

Of course, I know that this critique of the today’s students suffers from absence of empirical basis. However, if by sheer misconception of current reality, I am not, at all, accurate in my appreciation of your generation, I sincerely apologize and, with utmost humility, request you to look at my intrinsic defect as a product of the peculiar vicissitudes of my own youth.  

Let me now begin.

The question of peace, in the context of Mindanao, goes beyond the sphere of a mere social problem. Peace is a question far deeper than what we can imagine.  

It has an umbilical chord connected to history, to the prevailing political and socio-economic structures, and to an operative culture that renders all attempts at social reconstruction almost impossible.

All these pose as obstacles to the smooth march of our civilization, and disrupt the birthing of a new peaceful Mindanao.

The Moro struggle for a homeland and the revolutionary and reform overtures continuously waged by various ideological groups make peace exceedingly elusive in this Island paradise.

It is elusive not because we are devoid of the needed capacity to attain peace, but because the social requirements for its attainment are too great that our generation may not be able to satisfy them.

Candidly, I was tempted to discuss my topic “approaches to a peaceful and livable community” by postulating on higher theoretical frameworks and by navigating along the usual arguments that directly responds to these gargantuan issues.

I was tempted to postulate on:

ending poverty through the dismantling and replacement of the prevailing social structures;

1. the establishment of a strong state, thereafter, to counterpose any act of disturbance against society’s order and to usher a smooth social transition;

 2. the transformation of property relations, respecting the ancestral domain of the Moro and the lumads;

 3. giving rise to genuine autonomy for Muslim Mindanao, among others; and

 4. the need to institute changes in the Constitution as a prelude to the pursuit of these transformative agenda.

But I resisted the temptation. I refused to delve into the ideal, at least in the context of local governments and local communities.

 For a social theory to be able to bring about certain qualitative meaning to our respective journey as a community, it is but necessary that such a theory be made a happy combine of the ideal and the practical.  

 The logic here is simple. The things ideal are as vast as our minds can explore, and they define no borders.

 On the other hand, what we can do as a community is limited by the things material, which are, in many instances, beyond our power and capacity to provide. Thus, our theory does not simply work, and we fail miserably in the end.

 I am happy to receive feedback lately that, in the pursuit of the city government’s development theoretical works, Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio is always uncompromising on her insistence for the formulation of the “doables”.

 I was informed that Darlene would always insist that development goals should be pursued by implementing strategies which give premium to objective and subjective conditions.

 This means that she detests and resists relentlessly any form of quixotic tendencies that, sometimes, characterized many old-fashioned bureaucrats and, no pun intended, some “prophets of the revolution.”

 Thus, expecting a stern repulse from the Mayor if I do, I would focus my discussion this afternoon on approaches that can be applied on the prevailing local conditions, without, of course, casting aspersion on the importance of active participation and involvement of local governments and basic social institutions in a national discourse intended to advance our country’s peace-building work.

 My personal thesis is that given mathematical formula or applied theories cannot restore or sustain peace in Mindanao and, even, in our city. The diversity of the people’s experiences and cultures in this Region would render all automated formula ineffective, and they could even be an aberration to our quest for lasting peace.

 It is my personal view that the conscious building of our narrative as a community and as nation is a time machine that could bring us back into the tranquility of our past, and move us forward into the serenity of our future.

 Through our constant summation and distillation of our experiences as a community and as a nation, we can draw important lessons that could guide our long and difficult journey towards lasting peace.

 These lessons that we can draw from our narrative building works could serve as a sure formula for peace as they are culled from our success and failure, from our happiness and pains, and from the grandeur of our fame and the blood of our sacrifice.

 In the work for peace, the process takes center stage. We cannot force a solution to unpeace. Thus, the effective approach to peace is to subject it relentlessly to constant and continuing discourses and, by our fortitude and sacrifice, lasting peace is attained without us probably noticing it.

 But the discourse, in order to become an effective approach to peace, must be done at all levels of our national life.  It must be brought into the bosom of our basic communities as genuine stakeholders of any peace project. After all, they are, by the nature of their existence, the direct victims of unpeace.  

 The recent move of our City Mayor, Darlene, to innovate and enhance the “City Hall sa Barangay” program in order to make it more interactive and dialogical is a necessary contribution to the narrative building work of our basic communities.

 Enlivening the discourse for peace at the local levels is the main substance of my concrete proposals this afternoon.

 In the past, I was privileged to write a discussion paper on peace for a peace institution, then, implementing its program in the city. That paper I wrote was entitled “Democratizing the Peace.” 

 In that paper, I advanced a thesis advocating for the localization of peace interventions through the institutionalization of effective mechanisms where the local residents can actively participate in peace and development works.

 In that same paper, I envisioned a situation where self-reliant, autonomous, sustainable and empowered barangays are dynamically and collectively working in partnership with sustainable and self-governing basic communities and organized community-based institutions in the pursuit of a common aspiration.   

 I argued that, by building this kind of a community and by facilitating this kind of dynamic community interactions, we are actually establishing “green patches of peace” in the city, and on the so-called bleak landscape of Mindanao and the whole country.

 Within these “green patches of peace”, the community people are given the opportunities to attain and celebrate their “little victories”, and these “victories” could serve as building blocks for the edifice of peace that we all desire to build for our city, for Mindanao, and the whole country.

 The establishment of these “green patches of peace” could serve as the city’s vital contribution to the national struggle for the attainment of peace and prosperity.

 In concrete, in that paper I wrote, I advanced the following strategies for the establishment of the “green patches of peace” in the city.     

 Solid community organizing should take center stage to continue and sustain all initiatives for the attainment of lasting peace and development within the basic communities;

 1. Solid organizing interventions are necessary to enable formal government structures to lend permanency to all peace and development efforts;

 2. The formation of alternative power centers should be done by forming new organizations or by revitalizing or strengthening existing cooperatives, people’s organizations (POs), women associations and youth organizations within the barangays;

 3. Empowerment of the barangays and community institutions for effective engagement in decision-making processes, resource mobilization works, and in the implementation of programs and projects;

 4. Basic social institutions, especially those working for peace, must be strengthened and be given meaningful participation in the Barangay assembly, Barangay Development Council, the Lupon Tagapamayapa (a structure in the barangay which is in-charge of conflict transformation), the Barangay Peace and Order Council and other mandated and recognized special bodies in the barangays; and

 5. More governance seminars and trainings at the community levels should be conducted, targeting purok leaders, members of religious groups, including PO and Coop leaders in order to effectively pursue participatory governance, take hold, and maximize the benefits of the current democratic spaces, and guarantee peace in the end.

 The dynamic interactions of formal and alternative power centers in these basic communities, coupled with the meaningful participation of these basic social institutions in the processes of decision-making result to the leveling off of the people’s understanding of the various peace and development issues affecting their life’s situation, and to the crafting of appropriate responses to these issues.

 These processes may not guarantee an end to poverty but it would surely usher the people from the crisis of hope, the main culprit for the destruction of our basic community structures and the collapse of families as basic social institutions. The weakening of our community structures and the collapse of our basic institutions are anathema to our desire for the attainment of lasting peace.  

 The so-called “Batang Tun-og” phenomenon which had plunged many parts of the country into certain levels of terror was driven less by poverty but more by the collapse of the institutional character of the Filipino family and the weakening of our social structures in basic communities. The “Batang Tun-og” phenomenon is the greatest threat to our peace, today and in the future.

 The strong, vibrant and cohesive gangs of “Batang Tun-ogs” reflect not only the character of our successor-generation, but they also perfectly mirror our future. They will not only pose a serious threat to the peace of society, but they will create a society woven in accordance with the “norms” of their own morality and the “standards” of their own practices.

 When this happens, our problem would not anymore be the threat to the peace of society; it is society itself.

 Now, let us go to my final points.

 The massive crackdown waged by the City Mayor against drugs and illegal gambling is a move towards the right direction. Drugs and gambling are threats both to the well-being of the individuals and society.

 Drugs and gambling do not only weaken the human character and temper the people’s aspiration for excellence, but they also pose a danger to society. We detest the proliferation of drugs and gambling because they necessitate the establishment of sub-social structures that render the formal state structures ineffective.

 Drugs and gambling create a strong system of political economy that renders state institutions inutile and weakens the coercive state instruments through the bastardization of government agents and their cohorts. In some states and localities, drug lords and gambling lords even control governments and their many instruments.

 Finally, the disturbance to peace is admittedly the logical consequence of poverty, but, admittedly too, not all indicators of unpeace are attributable to a harsh economic situation. Experiences of other communities and nations would also tell us that unpeace also results from the collapse or weakening of state and social institutions, and the eventual collapse of human character.

 Let me end by asking a simple question: “What shall we do after this forum?” My answer is also simple: “Let us go back to our communities, to our puroks, to our barangays, to our schools and to working places, — and start the discourse for peace.”

 Some may accuse me of trivializing an otherwise future-defining issue by suggesting a non-challenging task. To them I say, “let us try it, and very soon we will know that it is not as easy as we think.”

Thank you.

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