Erle Frayne Argonza
In the beginning were Truman and McCarthy, collectively the ‘Father’ of Cold War. The Father ‘breathed’ out from His inner recesses, and off came a-birthing the new being called the Cold War. Mighty and dreadful, this being unleashed destructive forces of such unparalleled beauty in the eyes of the Father, and so, on the 7th day, the Father slept, fulfilled that his mighty Dragon of destruction has been doing its job well.
So mighty was this Dragon of Destruction that in my beloved nation, the new Philippine republic, everything that looked like a demon (read: patriot) must be staked alive in the town plaza, and upon the expiration of last breath, the demons must be paraded around town. Communists, socialists, nationalists, civil libertarians all appeared as ‘birds of the same feather’ and are, per the Pavlovian stock of knowledge of this hungry dragon, of equal demonic quality as the witches of Salem. Kill them whenever you see them in sight!
Fellows, the Father is long dead, his two heads (Truman, McCarthy) long gone, but many of us still think, both consciously and unconsciously, like the sons and daughters of the Father. We perceive and stigmatize those patriots inside our backyards, whose mindsets remain outside our perceptive perimeters of accepted political forces, as non-human witches worth our termination en masse.
The Cold War mindset has been responsible for the rabid witch-hunt perceptions of insurgent groups. Never mind if the insurgents are not exactly those terrorists that were largely creations of the CIA (Al Quada, Abu Sayyaf) and British Intelligence (Muslim Brotherhood offshoots), insurgents that lay claim to legitimacy of their agenda and relative civility of their methods and tactics. They are sorcerers, they must be hunted and terminated like deadly wolves, show them no mercy, and so name every plethora of denigration and demonization one can think of about any social or political group.
Fellows, when you have patriotic groups around, such as our Muslim and Left rebels here in the Philippines, please treat them as your siblings. Shed off that Cold War mindset, accept them, embrace them, integrate their cadres into the mainstream. And, ipso facto, integrate their armies into your state’s army and national police. Take off that distrust, condescension, arrogance and hubris, period. Accept them without precondition.
The end of Manila’s war with the Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF proves to be a very instructive case. As part of the negotiated settlement, troops of the Bangsa Moro Army or BMA, military wing of the MNLF, must be integrated into the army and national police. 7,000 troops were then screened from the guerilla ranks, received training, re-orientation and indoctrination, and voila! They proved they were equal to the task of being a soldier or cop for the Philippine state!
Please note that we have a history in the islands of deep distrust towards Muslims. The Muslim ethnicities never ever bowed to Western colonial authority for the whole period of 400 years of colonization, they always waged military campaigns against the Spaniards, and were pacified only after bloody integration campaigns by the American forces. “A good Muslim is a dead Muslim,” so goes this rather demented aphorism that I grew up with as a young boy in the 1960s.
Who would ever trust Muslim troops within the army in the 1970s at the peak of the Mindanao war? Or the ceasefire days of the 1980s? No, Sir, nobody could trust Muslims as they fell within the ambit of Cold War discourse and the demented, bigoted perception about them by the majority Westernized peoples.
But the 1990s was a different context. The Philippine state booted out American GIs and re-acquired the U.S. military base lands here, independent foreign policy was championed, the Cold War was eroding fast. The Christian Democrats, who were catapulted to power (President Ramos was among its top leaders), were very open in coalitioning with radical forces, the Left most specially. And so when President Ramos became president, it was among his top agenda to conclude all insurgencies here via the carrot way of negotiated settlement: the ‘win/win’ solution to age-old rebellions.
The military rebels (RAM-YOU, RAM = Reform the Armed Forces, YOU = Young Officers Union or YOU) finally agreed to a settlement and be integrated into the mainstream and the army/police. Likewise did the MNLF agree to a settlement, the top MNLF leaders were elected to the top posts of the Autonomous Region of Mindanao or ARMM, the BMA troops got integrated into the army and national police.
We simply shed off our Cold War mindset right then, and were so euphoric at the fulfilling results of the peace talks. Being a nationalist and socialist, my own Cold War antipathies towards our soldiers and cops eroded, my trust for them quite returned. I had always been under the surveillance of the state intelligence groups here, for nigh three (3) decades, and till these days my dossiers are still in the files of the said groups even if, by 2004-05, I served government as a bureau official.
Albeit I’d reserve my most euphoric moment, with tons of tears of happiness shed, when our other insurgencies will be concluded and their armies likewise integrated into our police and army. Never mind about nauseated rationalizations such as those questions of competency, mental orientation, and other Cold War hubris, they belong to the dirtiest dustbins. Integrate the insurgents at all cost and full acceptance, without preconditions.
[Writ 10 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]