“Not brothers but enemies in every sense”

Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing, the last military governor of the Moro Province (1909-1913), in his book Black Jack: The Life and Times of John J. Pershing, reflected on the relations between the Filipinos and the Moros. According to Pershing:

“Although they have lived as neighbors, they have never mingled and know practically nothing of each other. It is a rare thing to meet a Filipino who speaks Moro or vice versa.

The Filipino regards the Moro as a barbarian or a savage, while the Moro thinks of the Filipino as inferior, fit only to be his slave. They are in no sense brothers but are irreconcilable strangers and enemies in every sense.

The actual relations are such that any attempt at Filipino government would only lead to rebellion and disaster.

That was in 1913, almost a hundred years ago.

Have times and circumstances changed?

Do the Filipinos now know more of the Moros and the Moros of the Filipinos?  Do the Filipinos still consider the Moros barbarians? Do the Moros still think of the Filipinos as inferior, fit to be his slave? Are they now “friends” and “neighbors”? Or do they continue to be “irreconcilable strangers and enemies in every sense”? Is peace in our future? Or, as Pershing said, rebellion and disaster will be our eternal fate?


Why the IMT mandate ends on December 8, 2010 (and not in February 2011)

The mandate of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) will end 15 days from today.

Some people say that the mandate should end in February 2011 because the current Malaysian contingent arrived in Mindanao in February 2010. There may be good reasons to wish that the mandate of the IMT ends at a latter date but that has no basis at all.  I need not stress that the continued stay of the IMT, without a new agreement, beyond December 8, 2010, will have serious constitutional, legal, security and diplomatic repercussions.

The mandate will end by December 8, 2010, because the the Terms of Reference of the International Monitoring Team (TOR) dated 9 December 2009 signed in Kuala Lumpur says so:

“The term of the mandate of the IMT shall be 12 months except the Civilian Protection Component (CPC) which shall remain in place and continue to perform its functions should the IMT cease to operate. Extension of the term of mandate may be considered on a year-to-year basis upon the request by both GRP and MILF.”

Intention of the Parties.

I was part of the negotiations for the TOR dated 9 December 2009. The GPHL and MILF intended the IMT’s mandate to be reckoned from the date of the signing of the TOR, i.e. that it should end by December 8, 2010, unless renewed by the parties. The parties intended a clear end date for the IMT (as they always have). There was no discussion that it be reckoned to some determinable and “movable”  future date, i.e. the arrival of the Malaysian contingent.

Previous Conduct.

Looking at how the parties dealt with this issue of end of mandate will reveal that they have always reckoned the end of mandate on a written agreement – the date of signing of the TOR or even a Joint Statement. The point is that it is always a fixed date.

Thus, for example, on August 27, 2007, the TOR of the IMT (TOR dated 27 August 2007) was signed by then GRP Chair Rodolfo Garcia and MILF Chair Mohaqer Iqbal. This was actually an amendment of the previous TOR signed in 2005. The TOR dated 27 August 2007 had a similar provision that stated the term of mandate was for “12 months”. This signed TOR was accompanied by a Joint Statement of even date where it was made clear that the parties “reached a consensus to request Malaysia, Brunei, Libya and Japan to extend the tour of duty of their respective contingents to the IMT for another 12 months ending August 2008.” This 1-year extension was then affirmed during a call by the panel chairs to then Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Secretary (now Prime Minister) Dato Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak on November 15, 2007.

Sometime before the end of the mandate on August 27, 2008, the Panels experienced difficulties on the discussions on the ancestral domain aspects. The developing situation on the ground prompted then Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister (now Prime Minister) Najib to announce to media on April 24, 2008, that a “phased withdrawal” of the Malaysian IMT contingent will start on May 10, 2008. Eventually, 29 Malaysian IMT personnel were flown back to Kuala Lumpur, leaving behind the Head of Mission (Maj. Gen. Yasin), his Deputy and 11 Malaysians. It may be good to know that the Malaysian contingent headed by Maj. Gen. Yasin was deployed to Mindanao only on September 16, 2007 or almost a month after the TOR dated 27 August 2007 was signed.

Following the MOA-AD event of August 5, 2008 and knowing that the term of mandate of the IMT will end on August 27, 2008, the Malaysian Chief Facilitator called for an Executive Session in Kuala Lumpur on August 27, 2008, to discuss precisely the extension of the IMT. Here is the clear proof of what I am saying: the end of the term of mandate was reckoned from the date of the TOR despite the fact that the actual deployment happened months later.

Upon the request of the GRP and MILF Panels, the Malaysian Government eventually agreed to a 3-month extension of the IMT from August 27, 2008 or up to November 30, 2008. This decision was announced on the same day by Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais bin Yatim in a press statement.

On November 27, 2008, the 3 month extension of the term of the IMT ended and Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim issued a Statement saying that “Malaysia is suspending its participation in the IMT upon expiry of its mandate. Malaysia’s participation in the IMT will cease as scheduled on November 30, 2008.” Thus, the remaining Malaysian contingent left Mindanao on the said date.

Considering the aforementioned, it could be said that the “expiration” of the IMT mandate has always been a fixed date – either based on the TOR, a Statement or an executive agreement. The parties never envisioned a movable date or worse, a date subject to the sole will of the IMT.

Furthermore, the records of the negotiations will show that never has there been an instance where the mandate of the IMT was reckoned from the date of deployment. There were “turnovers” or deployments of of new IMT missions midway through a term (e.g. the IMT contingents headed by Maj. Gen. Zulkifeli and Maj. Gen Soheimi) which did not affect or alter the term of the mandate of the IMT.

Taking the case for instance of Maj. Gen. Yasin, who was Head of Mission from September 16, 2007, to November 2008, his contingent’s deployment happened several weeks AFTER the signing of the TOR dated August 27, 2007. In this case and despite the delayed deployment, the parties still reckoned the term of mandate from the date of signing of the TOR: August 27, 2008.

The present IMT.

The deployment of the current IMT headed by Maj. Gen. Baharom is similar to that of Maj. Gen. Yasin. The current TOR was signed December 9, 2009, and yet they were deployed only sometime in February 2010. But the end would be the same: the mandate of the current IMT will end on December 8, 2010, or exactly 12 months based on the TOR. There should be no doubt about that. The only way that the IMT can legally stay beyond December 8, 2010 is if the GPHL and MILF renew the mandate before it expires. Until this happens, the IMT will have to leave by December 8, 2010 or 15 days from today.

What shall I write about?

I traveled thousands of miles to visit Colombia.

What shall I write about?

Shall I write about the warmth and beauty of the Colombia and its people and how I enjoyed hanging around Plaza de Bolivar and breathing the air of revolution and resistance?

Shall I write about how we went up the Montserrate and pleaded for peace and prosperity to our different gods at the shrine devoted to El Señor Caído (the Fallen Lord)?

Shall I write about how Colombia is so rich yet so poor? How its resources are its curse?

Shall I write about how Colombia is racked not just by one but many insurgencies and how these conflicts seem intractable and unsolvable?

What shall I write about?

Shall I write about how disconnected the government is from the people and how the decision makers in central Bogota fail to see how their  “corporatist” and “technocratic” approaches to ending the conflicts fail to work in the peripheral swamps of the majestic Rio Magdalena?

Shall I write about the growing frustration and resignation of the poor and the dispossessed that find it increasing difficult to understand how a war supposedly being fought in their name has brought them more harm than good?

Shall I write about how drugs and foreign interests – their plans, their guns and their bombs – are making the situation more violent?

Shall I write about how the Government created more problems for themselves when the paramilitary forces they created and used against the “rebels” become “rebels” themselves?

What shall I write about?

Shall I write about how the frame “if you are not with us, you are against us” is constricting the room for maneuver for peace advocates and civil society organizations to bring the parties to non-violent dialogue and collaboration?

Shall I write about how Government totally misses the point when they continue to pour millions of money, create efficient bureaucracies and hire top-notch managers to perfect their response to the deluge of internally displaced persons and neglect addressing the root causes of displacement?

Shall I write about the hopes and dreams of men and women like Mario or Tathiana who, despite odds, are working silently and diligently to prepare for the dawning of peace in Colombia?

What shall I write about?

For the longest time, I could not write these lines. I could not write them for to do so would have exposed the undeniable truth: I needed not fly thousands of miles to learn these things.

I could just have written about home.


Kamulong gapanihapon si Diogenes nga ginamos ra ang sud-an, dihang miagi si Aristippus nga ayahay ang kinabuhi tungod kay duol man sa luwag sa Mayor.


Ingon si Aristippus: “Kung kahibalo ka lang magsipsip sa Mayor dili ka unta mag-antus diha anang ginamos.”


Tubag ni Diogenes: “Kung kahibalo ka lang mag-antus sa ginamos dili ka na kinahanglan magsipsip pa sa Mayor.”


[Salamat kang Tonyo de Mello sa inspirasyon]

Learning to live on lentils

The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper.

He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus who lived comfortably by flattering the king.

Said Aristippus, “If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.”

Said Diogenes, “Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to cultivate the king.”

(The Song of the Bird, p. 86.)

Meditation on Death

Death is inevitable. And everyday is a day nearer to death. It will come. The whole world seems to conspire to make us all forget this reality. But everything does have an end. And that is what grace gave me today- an awareness of death.

If death is inevitable then nothing remains forever – not power, not wealth, not fame, not loved ones, not ideas, not ideologies. Perhaps it is true that the secret is not in living but in dying.

The guru Anthony De Mello has this one exercise about death. In this exercise, he asks the retreatant to imagine going to one’s wake and then listening to the eulogies. He asks the retreatant to look and listen carefully. To look at the persons present and to listen to what people are saying. It is a good exercise. De Mello promises that if one undergoes such meditation, one will be in touch with one’s ultimate values.

Insurgency, Complexity and the Moro Problem (Part 2 of 3)

Photo AmilA return to normal times?

In the thinking of government, their task is to bring “normalisation” or a return to “normality”.  Their idea of “normal times” is that  government “controls” this complex environment. That government has the monopoly of force. That government enforces law. There is peace and order. Basic services are delivered to the people. That government renders justice. That government is seen as “legitimate”. Overall, that the government is seen as the neutral and impartial arbiter of competing interests. That is government’s idea. Obviously, this is not the case in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao. In the perception of the Moro, the Philippine Government is seen as a “foreign” government. It is not their government. The feeling of the Moro is that they are governed by people other than their own. And when one is government by people other than your own, resistance is a duty. Thus, government must see itself is a major part of the problem.

This however is not a cause for despair though because historically there never has been a “normal time”. The Americans, and the Spaniards before the Filipino government, has tried and failed to “control” this contested political space. The Philippine Government never, at any time, fully “subjugated” these areas. There never has been a “normal” time.

Uncertainty, time lags and non-linearity.
Since Mindanao is a complex system, it important for everyone working in this theater of Mindanao to see the situation in a “complex system” way – that is – to see the whole and how it is emerging via the interactions and decisions of the multiple weak agents who have no monopoly over power but can influence the outcomes within the complex environment.

Three things important things to remember if one is operating in a complex situation. These are uncertainty, time lags and non-linearity. A word on each.

“Uncertainty”. There is a measure of unpredictability in the context. An example would be the Maguindanao massacre. Nobody predicted such event to happen. By hindsight, of course, one can say that it was inevitable because of the interactions and decisions of different actors, both local and national, which lead the Ampatuans amassing more money, more guns and more political power than anyone else in Maguindanao. It is of course no a secret that the Ampatuans were used against the MILF. It was really unexpected.

“Time lags”. There will always be a gap in time between input and the consequent result or output. For example, failure to deliver quality education today to young muslims, if such continues to be unchecked will most likely increase the cohort of possible insurgents in 10 years. But since it is too far in the future, education or national officials does not see the perils of the failure of education today. On the other hand, delivery of education services today may also lead to increased insurgency because of the frustration that comes at the end of education – knowing that there are no jobs or livelihood opportunities for them at all.

“Non-linearity”. Input does not equal output. There will be unintended consequences of what could otherwise have been a straightforward solution to problems. For example, the pursuit of private armed groups after the Maguindanao massacre event would have logically brought down the level of violence. But it did not. Why? because the unintended consequence of “dismantling” the private armed groups converted such groups to leaderless, formless networks consisting of armed men who still needed to feed their families. Once we cut off the support given by their patrons, they had to find new sources of livelihood and since their skill sets were limited to the “war economy”, they are now in the employ of traditional politicians, or even of insurgent groups, like the MILF. This is an example of an unintended consequence, of non-linearity. (To be continued)