Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Peace be with you! To all devout sons and daughters of Allah, love and peace!
Permit me, through this note, to commend an ongoing project in Mindanao (Philippines) that showcases the theme of ‘infrastructure for peace’. This is the GEM Project, short for Growth with Equity in Mindanao. Funded by the United States A.I.D., the GEM will ensue till 2012 yet.
A report titled “GEM program continues in Mindanao” (Manila Bulletin, 25 July 2010) gave a brief update about the GEM situation particularly for the province of Lanao del Norte.
To reminisce a bit, Lanao was among the provinces where the insurgent MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) operated most actively, and was among territories that could have seceded from the Philippines. A peace pact was signed between the MNLF and the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) in the 1990s, during the incumbency of Fidel V. Ramos as president, thus ending decades of conflict.
The conflict down south led to casualties of over 100,000, while another 500,000+ Mindanaoans (mostly Muslims) migrated from the island to more peaceful areas across the Philippines and in Sabah (over 250,000 alone ran to Sabah and are still residing there). That conflict explains why there are so many Muslims in Manila today.
The GEM infrastructures, dubbed as BIPs or Barangay Infrastructure Projects, are showcases of development engagements that were able to take off and prosper largely due to the cessation of hostilities between state and rebel armies. As reported in the news, there are 44 BIP projects alone in Lanao del Norte, all of which are proceeding well thanks to the strategic peace in the area.
What the GEM narrative is telling us is that total cessation of hostilities is a pre-requisite for development engagements to prosper in any given area particularly in the hinterlands. There is no chicken-and-egg debate whatsoever when it comes to development work: build and cement peace in the area as sine qua non, and development engagements can take take off to induce growth in the affected area.
Having been a development worker for so long in my life, a work that almost got myself dead after contracting falciparum malaria in the early 80s, I resonate with those stakeholders who opine that development cannot proceed in an area where violence prevails as the norm. Such violence could be due to insurgency, warlordism, clan wars, and/or upscaled criminal activities (e.g. drug cartels and gambling chiefs lording it over in the area).
I have already gotten tired of the psychopathic propaganda of rebel Pied Pipers who peddle the lie that “insurgency has been caused by poverty, by the absence of development projects” verbiage, which is toxic mental junk. Certain insurgent groups are no revolutionaries but criminals cashing on the support of patrimonial interest groups, and role-playing social predators in their areas of operations.
A cursory psychoanalysis of the individual members of those insurgent groups would reveal psychopaths or sociopaths who are acutely sick of personality disorder, or at the minimum possess what Theodore Adorno termed as ‘authoritarian personality’. They are drawn to fanatical movements that cohere with their psyche and warped sense of justice, such as racist, jihadist, and communist groups.
Such persons, to my mind, are no longer humans in the truest sense of the word but are rather demoniacs who prey on helpless folks that suffer the most from their violent operations. Possessing borderline personalities or intelligence levels (sub-human levels), they are likewise those who join mafia groups.
Absent those demoniacs in the area, and you would have the environment for building peace, cooperation, and growth. That experience is what is now happening in Lanao del Norte where the BIPs of GEM are now going on.
To date, 23 BIPs were already accomplished (finished contract) and are now usable, comprising of slab bridges and solar dryers for grains. You could just imagine the glee of the village folks currently utilizing those infrastructures, folks who for so long had no access to simple infrastructures such as slab bridges.
Let me re-echo my commendations to the GEM project and the stakeholders directly involved in their planning, implementation, and utilization. Let the GEM story reach the widest latitudes of Mindanao and the planet to remind warring stakeholders of what zero hostilities can do to build life in their given areas of operations.
[Philippines, 12 September 2010]
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