PEACE remains a rare and elusive commodity in Mindanao from the time the Spanish colonizers tried to subdue and convert the Muslims in the South to Christianity in the 16th century. Neither has a Philippine President been able to forge and instill a lasting peace in the region that comprises more than 21 percent of the country’s population and contributes roughly 15 percent to total gross domestic product.
As long as there is no lasting peace in the South, as long as violence is the currency of exchange and innocent Filipinos end up as collateral damage in the crossfire, the Philippines as a nation cannot savor the freedom relished by those who first recited the Act of the Declaration of Independence and waved the yellow, red, white and blue in Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 1898, after more than 350 years of oppressive Spanish rule.
The road to peace is a long and tedious journey that must nevertheless be taken and pursued relentlessly, particularly by the government. Yet, there are times when bearing arms to battle is an option that must be followed, especially now that ruthless bandits have reached our shores—a situation that must be dealt with forthrightly to stop such extremists from spreading and sowing fear, hatred and violence throughout the nation and throughout Southeast Asia.
Cultural differences are always a factor in peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims, a universal truth that has been overcome by those willing to live and let live with their neighbors of a different religion and even of ethnic origin. After all, we are one people, one nation; one planet, one source of genetic make-up. Wasn’t it that there were Muslims in the ongoing siege of Marawi City, who hid Christians from the Islamist terrorists who would take them hostage and use them as human shields?
This country has taken the slings and arrows of imperial colonialism and occupation, of dictatorship, of graft and corruption. Through it all, the Filipino has learned to smile and take the twist of fate with a grain of salt: laugh and the whole world will laugh with you. Only this time, the siege of Marawi is no laughing matter and definitely not a joke being pulled by IS at the expense of a nation.
We have to believe that the end is at hand for the IS interlopers in the South, that one day soon this nation and its people will wake up to a new dawn and a new beginning, to another chance for peace as the terrorists shall have been defeated.
Party-list Rep. Salvador Belaro Jr. of 1-Ang Edukasyon has filed House Bill 5883, or the Rebuilding and Transformation of Marawi City into a City of Peace, Friendship and Progress, seeking an initial funding of P20 billion to be made available this year. The assistant majority leader also filed House Resolution 1160 urging the Department of Budget and Management to earmark P30 billion for the rebuilding and transformation of Marawi in the 2018 General Appropriations Act.
We must now focus also on healing the wounds inflicted by extremism and move forward so that this latest episode in our history as a nation and a people will be remembered by the rest of the world as a time and place where IS was dealt a blow that stopped it from spreading its evil deeds across Southeast Asia.
The Filipino psyche is indeed battle-scarred, the nation wounded countless times by the vagaries of history, but whose resilience can never be found wanting—a resilience that can and will defeat the surge of this new plague called global terrorism.