Saturday, April 4, 2015

Understanding the true meaning of peace

Recently I praised former President Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada’s position on the peace agreement between the government and the MILF in Mindanao. Though I am not a proponent of war, I felt that perhaps a show of strength is what was necessary to finally make headway in the investigation that brutally robbed over 44 soldiers (plus innocent bystanders) of their lives in Mamasapano.
After the incident, which was horribly tagged a “misencounter,” it became increasingly difficult to look at the peace talks with an optimistic eye. After all, how can we even begin to discuss true peace in the wake of such a terrible tragedy. Not to mention, instead of understanding why the peace process should have been halted while the investigation was conducted, the response to the government was to threaten us with war should the peace deal not push through or should changes be made. What does this tell us about the people we are dealing with?
It begs the question of what kind of peace the BBL will achieve if we continue on without any changes or adjustments in the light of what happened. How can the MILF guarantee the government peace in Mindanao if it can’t even get all the groups to unify together under one banner? It doesn’t take rocket science to see that since the MILF is not the only rebel group making demands in Mindanao and seeking independence from the Philippines, that passing the BBL will not put an end to all conflicts in the region as the President and those seeking passage of the law are promising. Should they get what they are demanding isn’t it only a matter of time before other rebel groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) start making demands of their own and asking for their own version of the BBL?
A true and lasting peace for the entire region is the goal and is what everyone is striving for, but spending time and resources crafting a law that caters to only one group is not only ludicrous but a waste of time and resources. The MILF, in accordance with the passage of this bill (should it come to pass), will even get resources and money to assist them in creating their sub state, not to mention having all their previous atrocities pardoned. What kind of message does this send the rebels? Fight with us, kill our troops, and hey – we won’t prosecute you – we’ll give you exactly what you want.
In the United States and in other countries their stance on “terror” is plain. No negotiating with terrorists. It seems harsh, but the reality is they are making a stand. Granted, this type of hard stance is not without problems of its own, but at least it is coming from a place of strength and while it may seem harsh, it sets a precedent for those wishing to use terror as a means to an end, and that precedent is – though you may threaten us, you will not get what you want.
The problem with us, as I see it, is that the President seems so fixated on achieving peace through the BBL that he may have lost sight of what that “peace” really means. Many have said that perhaps he is seeking a Nobel Peace Prize nomination as his legacy, which is why he is pushing so hard, but what will that mean if the peace he has achieved is hollow? If we give in once again to the rebels simply because they are threatening us, what sort of precedent does that set for the country? Bully us and we’ll give in? It’s a dangerous road to traverse because it only opens up the doors for other rebel groups to do the same. 
Now don’t get me wrong – I am not for war. I want peace as much as the next person, and I understand we can’t sit in the comfort of our homes here in Manila and cry for strength when we are not the ones affected by the fighting in our daily lives. I can’t even begin to comprehend what the innocent people in the region have to suffer through and the more they will suffer and lose should war breakout. I see what could happen and it’s horrible, but should we give in simply to avoid all of that? What will the BBL truly accomplish? As President Aquino seems to keep flip-flopping on his statements can he truly guarantee the country that the passage of this law will bring lasting peace? Call me skeptical, but I highly doubt it.
Meanwhile, as all this is happening, we have our neighboring nation Malaysia warning the country that should the peace deal not push through in June there will be war in the region. They even went so far as to say their bases would be fully operational in April to protect them from the war and to “handle” the hundreds of thousands of refugees who they expect will be fleeing. This is annoying on many levels, but the first is they should not get involved in matters that they know minimal to nothing about. Is it too much to ask to let our country handle our problems without Malaysia adding their two cents in the international press? And the second, they have already made it clear that they expect war, their next point of contention is to ensure the media that they will be prepared to stop the exodus of people who they fear will hit their borders. In other words, we will prevent them from finding solace or help here. I can’t speak for Malaysia, but I can say that they should mind their own business. As if all of this wasn’t difficult and tricky enough on its own, now we need to hear their opinion on our country’s affairs as well.
In either case, when it all boils down to it, I truly and ardently pray that it does not come to war. I don’t want to see the innocent people of the region suffer any more because of the rebels. I want peace just as much as everyone else, but I have to say that I want real and true peace, a peace for everyone. Not just a hollow “peace’ band-aid slapped on a broken and bleeding wound in our country.
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There is a lot to think about and it’s actually quite appropriate as Holy Week approaches for all of us to be more reflective, not just of the BBL and the country’s woes, but of our lives in general. Holy Week is the perfect time to reflect on our faith and what this time means for all of us. While Easter Sunday is a wonderful time to celebrate and rejoice with family, we can’t get there without Good Friday and commemorating the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for our sins.
Personally, I think we should all give importance to the meaning of Good Friday this Holy Week. If we recall with passion the sacrifices made for us, it may inspire us all to live better, to love without discrimination, and to just be better people. If we can do this, then what a grand Easter celebration we can enjoy indeed.

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